The Australian National University
Australian Institute of Physics 16th Biennial Congress 2005
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Session Highlights

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Topic Areas and Highlights

Celebrating Einstein's Miraculous Year 1905: The International Year of Physics 2005

The year 2005 is the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's -MiraculousYear- of 1905 when Einstein published four revolutionary ideas that forever changed the way we see the world. To celebrate this anniversary, the year 2005 has been declared the International Year of Physics by the United Nations. This provides Australian physicists with an opportunity to raise the public awareness of physics and Einstein's revolutionary contributions to our society (see http://www.physics2005.org/). The four ideas were: (i) The idea of the light quantum, (ii) the idea of molecular motion leading to the very useful diffusion relation, (iii) the theory of special relativity and (iv) the idea that mass and energy are linker by E=mc2.

Throughout the Congress you will find many presentations of current research that have extended these ideas. They include also topics relating to Einstein's later work, such as the use of quantum entanglement and Bose-Einstein Condensation. These themes will be covered by several of the plenary lecture and in the topical areas.

In addition we have a special lecture, lunchtime Monday, which shows the historical link to early work in Australia and we have an outreach program on Wednesday featuring future work in relativity and quanta of light.

Acoustics and Music (AAS)

You're not the only one who is listening to your ears! Once you know that the human ear has a dynamic range of over 120 dB and a frequency range of 10 octaves and a precision of a fraction of a percent, it's no suprise to learn that the cochlea, its acoustical-electrical and analogue-digital converter, has active elements. And active elements mean that, yes, the ear can make sounds too. Come to an invited talk by Eric LePage .

Do violins really get better with age, and how could you tell? Whether it is the passage of time, the exposure to the atmosphere, or the amount of playing, many violinists believe that oldies are goodies, and spurn inexperienced instruments. When the Powerhouse Museum wanted to buy for its collection an instrument from renowned maker Harry Vatiliotis, an opportunity arose to examine these questions. Three years ago, two very similar instruments were made from seasoned wooden plates that had originally been intended to make a cello. They were subjected to acoustical, playing and listening tests. Since then, one has been maintained in museum conditions, unplayed, while the other belongs to busy Sydney musician Romano Crivici. How have they changed? Ra Inta will explain that on Thursday.

Did the pitch rise or fall? And what does that say about the nature of pitch perception? A range of odd psychophysical results are produced by octave-complex tones-tones whose frequency components are spaced one octave apart. When such tones jump by half an octave (a dissonant interval that also corresponds to the maximum harmonic distance between two musical keys), listeners may disagree on whether it rose or fell. Richard Parncutt uses experiments like these to test different theories on the way humans perceive pitch.

Atomic and Molecular Physics and Quantum Chemistry (AMPQC)

Topics to be covered in the Atomic and Molecular Physics and Quantum Chemistry (AMPQC) sessions span the full research spectrum from the fundamental to the applied.

At the fundamental level, Michael Bromley (Bragg Medal Winner 2004) will discuss recent progress made in the theoretical treatment of the interaction of positrons with isolated atoms. This talk is complimented by James Sullivan describing the new experimental positron facility presently under construction. Igor Bray will review the longstanding difficulties in describing the Coulomb few-body breakup problem and describe how resolution of outstanding problems has led to unprecedented agreement between theory and experiment. A subsequent talk by Andris Stelbovics will describe in detail their development of a new formulation of the theory of electron-impact ionization of atoms. Chris Chantler will describe measurements performed on highly charged titanium ions which provide critical tests of QED in a new regime. Results for many-body atomic structure calculations probing violations of parity and time reversal will be presented by Jacinda Ginges. Linda Uhlmann will present results for the scattering of electrons from trapped metastable helium atoms.

The interaction of photons with matter will be addressed by a number of speakers. Evan Bieske will discuss the dynamics of trapped clusters and nano-particles probed with infrared light and describe and how information regarding molecular bonds and intra-molecular energy transfer can be extracted from experiment.


Brian Orr (OSA William F. Meggers Award 2004) will speak on intramolecular dynamics studied by time-resolved infrared-ultraviolet double resonance spectroscopy. The powerful technique of velocity map imaging will be reviewed by Warren Lawrence. He will describe how it can be applied to determine the binding energies of van der Waals molecules and provide insights into the dissociation process. The velocity map imaging technique is also being pursued in Canberra with first results to be presented by Steve Cavanagh. On the theoretical front, Igor Ivanov will discuss a formalism and computational procedure to treat the process of multiphoton ionization in strong laser fields.


Environmental and technological applications of atomic and molecular physics also form a key theme of our sessions. Recent advances in computational models describing auroral emissions will be presented by Laurie Campbell. The question of whether a detailed comparison between predictions and measurements can be used to discriminate between different cross-section measurements will be discussed. Results of investigations into the electrical conduction properties of single organic molecules will be addressed in the talk of Karl-Heinz Mueller with the development of molecular electronics depending crucially on the understanding of such phenomena. Finally, the results of calculations on different tautometric forms of the biologically important molecule adenine will be presented by Feng Wang.

Meteorology, Climate Change and Oceanography (AMOS)

The AMOS program includes contributions from the fields of meteorology, climate and oceanography and, by extension, ocean-atmosphere interactions.

The oceanography part of the program begins in session 1 with keynote speaker Matthew England exploring the role of the Southern Ocean in climate change using climate models. Susan Wijffels, also a keynote speaker (in session 5), will present measurements of the Indonesian Throughflow, the ocean current system which transports heat between the Pacific and Indian oceans. Other oceanography talks will cover the dynamics of the global thermohaline circulation, nonlinearity and chaos in the wind-driven ocean circulation and methods for the reconstruction of palaeo-climate changes from coral reefs.

Keynote speakers in meteorology and climate include Michael Roderick (session 2), who will offer a physical explanation for the measured global trend of decreasing pan evaporation rate despite climate warming, and Peter May (session 3), who will discuss observations of tropical convection and clouds. In session 4, Helen Cleugh will talk about interactions between climate and land processes, including the terrestrial carbon cycle and its relationship to the water cycle. There are additional contributions on the role of aerosols in climate and weather, evidence for a long-term trend of decreasing rainfall over southern Australia and the nonlinear relationship between Australian climate and the El Nino-Southern Oscillation phenomenon.

Oscar Alves, will unite the two AMOS threads of oceanography and meteorology. Specifically, he will highlight current efforts to use ocean data assimilation models to help with seasonal climate predictions. A number of other talks on coupled ocean-atmosphere interactions, covering a range of temporal and spatial scales (from small-scale wind-driven mixing to ocean basin climate variability), are included in the AMOS sessions.

Australian Optical Society and Quantum Physics (AOS)

The special feature of the Australian Optical Society meeting is its breadth and depth. It starts on the Monday with a session on aspects of spectroscopy, including a keynote address by Eric van Stryland (USA) and followed by sessions on the Monday and Tuesday with talks showing new developments in nonlinear optics and photonic crystals. You can find out what's happening in the field of optics and lasers, laser development and laser applications from the sessions on Thursday and Friday mornings.

Quantum physics, quantum information, quantum control and quantum logic are fields of considerable interest which flourish in Australia and New Zealand. This topic has two sessions on Tuesday and Friday. Similarly quantum & atom optics, with an emphasis on Bose Einstein Condensation and Fermi gases, has two full sessions, jointly organised with atomic physics, on Wednesday and Thursday. These topics feature several keynote speakers from Australia, New Zealand, plus Gora Schlapnikov (France) and Johannes Denschlag (Austria).

On the Tuesday and Thursday we hold a session which is restricted to "new faces" -early career and student speakers. Another session on Tuesday afternoon has a less conventional format in that the audience will be given an introduction to four interesting and separate topics.

Within the AOS program there are Keynote talks from winners of significant scientific awards: Ben Eggleton, winner of the Australian Government Malcolm McIntosh Prize, and Peter Drummond, winner of the AIP Massey Medal. Keynote and contributed papers also feature Presidents-elect of our sister societies OSA (Eric van Stryland) and SPIE (Paul McManamon) and three Federation Fellows. All the presentations could be highlights but you have to be there to find out!

General Relativity and Gravitation (ASRG)

General Relativity and Gravitation features in three sessions during the Congress, two on Tuesday and a joint session with Astronomy on Thursday. David Blair (ANZAAS medal winner) will lead off with the bigger picture of research and public outreach in Western Australia. Optical techniques the US LIGO project and the international LISA project are all featured. Look out for other presentations on gravitational wave interferometry in the AOS sessions on Monday, Thursday and Friday and Tuesday's poster session.

The afternoon session on Tuesday is devoted to general relativity theory. John Hartnett kicks off with a novel application of 5D cosmology to the issue of dark matter in the Universe. The long-standing question of whether the famous cosmological singularity theorem by Hawking actually predicts a curvature singularity will be resolved by S. Scott. The well-known author and science communicator Paul Davies will present interesting consequences of the study of the transit time of a freely-falling particle in a background gravitational field.

Thursday's joint session with Astronomy continues the theme of the earlier Astronomy session by featuring large projects. Martin Huber, Switzerland, provides an overview of the ESA program in fundamental physics. David Reitze's update on the US LIGO Project will report that LIGO is close to its design sensitivity. The gravitational wave theme will then move to the ultra low frequency regime with talks by Robert Manchester from CSIRO and Matthew Bailes from Swinburne University on pulsar timing and the detection of gravitational waves using a pulsar timing array.

Biophysics and Medical Physics (BMP)

The collection of material to be presented paints a vivid picture of the crucial role of physics plays in modern biology. The first session looks chiefly at how proteins provide a rich opportunity for physicists to bridge-build towards biology. From the very structure of these complex biopolymers (Benno Schoenborn) to the cooperative higher functions such as signal transduction (Ben Corry). The influence of quantum mechanics is also discussed in light of electronic and photonic properties in a number of systems ranging from photosynthesis, to the role of melanin, and to act of vision .

The second session draws upon the physics of signal processing and visualisation of fundamental patterns in biology. The scene is set with an analysis of genetic patterns. The brain is the next source of complex signals and presents a dynamic network which begs visualisation. The electrical activity of the brain is one of the key experimental quantities that lends itself to physical interpretation. MRI allows the brain to be monitored for a response to a given stimulus, blood oxygen levels for example.

An important role for physics is to develop novel devices, techniques and algorithms to extend the possibilities for biologists. In the final session, it is shown that silicon-based biosensors and microarrays are greatly increasing throughput and scope of testing regimes for protein and gene-based screening. The safe operation of medical devices relies on a practical physical understanding, not in the least the ultrasonic heating of bone or the hydrodynamics of blood around a stent. The Biophysics and Medical Physics sessions span the spectrum of physics and should be both of general and specific interest.

Education (PEG)

The Australian Universities Teaching Committee (AUTC) and The Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education are funding a review of "Learning Outcomes and Curriculum Development in Physics" through 2004-2005. As part of the Stage One review, Michelle Livett will present "Key Findings from the National Physics Project on Learning and Teaching", which will be followed by a one-hour Workshop/Panel Session (led by Judith Pollard, with the AUTC Project Team).

The inaugural AIP Education Medallist, Marjan (Mario) Zadnik, will present a keynote entitled "Changing Time-Changing Teaching", where he will discuss his personal teaching philosophy and present some practical strategies that individuals and groups may wish to consider. Mario promises to challenge the audience to critically review their own attitudes and beliefs regarding teaching and learning, in light of the changes he identifies have occurred in recent times.

Arthur Guenther, Past President for the International Commission for Optics, will present a "Comprehensive Photonics Education Model" established in Albuquerque in direct response to the needs of the local optics and photonics sector (both industry and government). This model enables individuals to enter and return to the workforce routinely as they ascend the educational chain, starting from high school and progressing through the degree stream to the doctoral level.

Secondary teachers will find much to interest them throughout the programme. There are contributions on the Rio Tinto Australian Science Olympiads (Kate Wilson), the Science and Engineering Challenge (John O'Connor), the transfer of mathematics knowledge and understanding from high school to university (Andrew Roberts).



Nuclear and Particle Physics (NUPP)

The meeting has presentations from the full spectrum activities of Australia's active Nuclear and Particle Physics community. These range from the theory of fundamental interactions and reports from large international collaborations to advances in the understanding of nuclear reaction dynamics and nuclear structure and the applications of nuclear techniques to other areas. The keynote speakers below have been selected to reflect this diversity.

The presentation by Victor Flambaum will explore the nature of the fundamental constants and Derek Leinweber will provide a rare visual presentation of the basic strong interaction physics of quark confinement, which is notoriously difficult to analyze, using advanced computer graphics to represent results from lattice gauge theory calculations.

The talks by Tom Atkinson and Phill Urquijo will look at large the international facilities at CERN and KEK, with Tom discussing the Large Hadron Collider, the largest particle accelerator ever constructed, which will begin taking data in late 2007. It hopes to discover the Higgs boson and hence begin to solve the problem of the origin of mass. An overview of the LHC and the ATLAS detector will be provided, including the substantial contribution being made by Australian physicists. Phill will review some of the many exciting results in this area emerging from the Belle experiment which has over the last several years has collected some 300 million decays of pairs of particles known as B mesons. Using these, subtle differences between the behaviour of matter and antimatter have been established, through a process known as CP violation.

David Hinde will be discussing the present understanding of the mechanisms controlling nuclear fusion reaction, in particular the implication that the results that recent measurements on light systems have for the formation super-heavy elements. George Dracoulis will be showing how nuclear metastable states (isomers) can be used as powerful probes in the understanding of fundamental nuclear properties and Hugo Maier will show how the nuclear shell model can be used to explain the behaviour of nuclei near the heaviest doubly magic system.

The meeting will also celebrate the recent AIP awards to G. Dracoulis (Boas Medal) and B. Sowerby/J. Tickner (Walsh Medal).

Plasma Physics (PP)

Laboratory plasma physics encompasses studies of ionised gases from a few thousand degrees C for plasma materials processing to hundreds of millions of degrees for fusion energy development. On Friday afternoon, Prof. Marcela Bilek, a Federation Fellow from the University of Sydney, will give a plenary lecture on "Plasma Physics Enters the Nano-Age" describing the many uses of plasmas in producing nano-structured materials. At the opposite end of the temperature scale, Prof. Robert Goldston, the Director of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in the United States will give a keynote lecture on "Advances in Magnetic Fusion Science" on Wednesday morning which describes advances in understanding of the complex behaviour of high energy confined plasmas, its relationship to astrophysical phenomena, and its role in developing the basis for the large International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, for which final site selection is imminent.

Other oral (Wednesday and Thursday mornings) and poster presentations will cover the plasma confinement in stellarator, spherical torus and compact torus devices, the physics of laser-compressed fusion plasmas, plasma thrusters for space propulsion, innovative diagnostic techniques for high and low temperature laboratory plasmas, and the use of plasmas for efficient production of high-value thin films and other material. Plasmas being highly non-equilibrium complex physical systems, the theory, modelling, and experimental study of plasma stability and turbulence is represented and forms a cross-disciplinary link with space and astrophysical plasma physics, fluid dynamics and complex systems theory.

Solar-Terrestrial and Space Physics (STSP)

These sessions address the physics of phenomena ranging from Earth's neutral atmosphere and magnetosphere to the Sun and the outer boundaries of our solar system, where the Sun's solar wind meets the local interstellar medium. A major focus for these sessions is the international program CAWSES (Climate and Weather of the Sun Earth System), which combines research on solar and interplanetary physics with magnetospheric, ionospheric, and atmospheric physics, and with cosmic rays and the solar system's interstellar environment. Observational data are obtained from spacecraft, including Australia's FedSat, and ground-based sources, while the interpretative and theoretical work primarily involves plasma physics. Invited Keynote presentations and contributed talks will be given in five sessions on Monday and Friday. The bulk of the Australian STSP community will be present at the poster session on Thursday. In addition a lunchtime meeting for the STSP Group will be held.

The CAWSES program will be summarised and Janet Kozyra (USA) discusses magnetospheric physics. The theme of space weather in Earth's ionosphere and magnetosphere continues into the second session, including predictions of transient events and a presentation by Wendell Horton (USA) on a new integrated theory for electron acceleration and magnetic substorms. The third session focuses on the physics of the Sun and interplanetary medium and their links with auroral activity. Hilary Cane (Australia) will discuss solar flares, coronal mass ejections, radio emissions, and particle acceleration.

The first Friday session addresses the plasma physics of Earth's auroral region and the generation and propagation of energetic particles, starting with a Keynote talk by Christopher Chaston (Australia). The final session links the neutral atmosphere with the ionosphere and magnetosphere. It includes a review by Mark Conde (Australia) and presentations on tomographic reconstruction and the radiation dose on airplanes due to energetic particles.