2014 Series

2014 Series

Semester 2 Talks

05/08/14 – A Golden Age of Astroseismology with Kepler

Tim Bedding

University of Sydney
Stellar astrophysics has entered a new golden age, thanks to wonderfully precise measurements being returned by NASA’s Kepler mission. Kepler is a 0.9-metre space telescope that has been monitoring the brightness of more than 100,000 stars with extraordinary accuracy for more than four years. Its main goal is to discover extra-solar planets by detecting the small dips in light as they transit their parent stars. The mission has been spectacularly successful, with thousands of candidates reported. Meanwhile, Kepler’s observations of oscillations in thousands of stars have led to a revolution in astroseismology. Key results include detecting gravity modes in red giant stars and characterizing stars found to host exoplanets.

Tim Bedding

12/08/14 – Nanophosphors: Lighting to Life Sciences

P. R. Ravilisetty

Specialty Phosphors Inc., Cupertino, CA 95014 (USA)
Scientists are able to create new products, new tools, and advanced technologies to address some of the world’s biggest challenges with the development of nanomaterials. SPI is focused on fulfilling some of these challenges. Depending on the composition, nanophosphors (NPs) have a wide range of applications in daily life. Efforts are being used for cancer diagnosis and therapeutics. In addition to military, solar energy, authentication, and lighting, SPI is investigating the feasibility of X-Ray luminescence imaging using a dual-modality imaging. Our novel high-resolution digital mammography approach will not only to detect early stage breast cancer but also improve the quality of breast cancer diagnosis. X-ray excitable NPs are being developed to deliver higher flux visible light to sensitize photodynamic therapy drugs. The synthesis, characterization, and possible applications of NPs will be presented.

PR Ravilisetty

19/08/14 – The Impact of Impact: Hierarchical Structure Formation and its effect on Cluster Galaxies

Matt Owers

Australian Astronomical Observatory
Clusters of galaxies are the largest, most massive and latest structures to form in our Universe. Mass is steadily accreted onto clusters via the infall of surrounding material and this steady accretion is punctuated by periods of rapid growth when groups or, more rarely, clusters of similar mass merge. In the last decade, significant progress has been made in our understanding of the impact of this hierarchical growth on clusters. This has been due to advances in multi-object spectroscopic instruments onboard telescopes such as the Anglo-Australian Telescope which can efficiently collect spectra for hundreds of galaxies simultaneously, and to a new generation of X-ray satellites, such as the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which have allowed a new view of the hot (10 million Kelvin) intra-cluster medium. In this talk I will present an overview of my work on “cold front” clusters. Cold fronts were one of the first discoveries made possible by the Chandra X-ray Observatory and are contact discontinuities which form at abrupt interfaces between low and high entropy cluster gas which are related to dynamical activity in the cluster. I will also discuss the SAMI Galaxy Survey, a new and innovative Australian led survey, which aims to collect spatially resolved spectra for 3400 galaxies spanning all astrophysical environments. In particular, I will focus on how the SAMI survey will help to explain long standing questions pertaining to why galaxies in clusters are different from the general population.

Matt Owers

26/08/14 – NMR Spectroscopy of Single Spins

Liam McGuinness

University of Melbourne
Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy at the ultimate limit of single nuclei or single molecules has the potential to change our world. It would provide a unique window into the workings of single molecules, invaluable to chemical analysis, rational drug design and our understanding of protein function. But fundamentally new detection strategies are required in order to improve from sensitivity to 10^12 molecules down to single molecule detection. This talk discusses one such strategy – using a quantum sensor which is strongly coupled to the target molecule. The unique capacity of quantum measurements to provide information at the nanoscale, in addition to some peculiar consequences of quantum measurements completely at odds with classical reality is discussed.

Liam McGuinness

02/09/14 – Radio Polarimetry and Cosmic Magnetism

Bryan Gaensler

University of Sydney
A remarkable discovery made by 20th century astronomers was that the Universe is threaded with magnetic fields. Furthermore, these magnetic fields typically do not have a random, tangled, morphology, but are surprisingly organised and coherent. However, the processes that create and then sustain this large-scale magnetism are not yet understood. I will present innovative new observations of radio polarisation and Faraday rotation, and will explain how these data sets provide a unique view of magnetic fields in interstellar gas, in the Milky Way, and in distant galaxies. These experiments pave the way to the opening of the full magnetic Universe with the next generation of radio telescopes, culminating in the Square Kilometre Array.

Bryan Gaensler

09/09/14 – Mapping a Photon in Flight

Charles Bamber

National Research Council of Canada
The conventional wisdom of quantum mechanics says that the quantum state cannot be measured because measurement collapses the wavefunction and information is necessarily lost. We demonstrate that by decreasing the strength of the measurement, the quantum state can be measured directly as the wavefunction need not collapse when it interacts with the measuring apparatus. Furthermore, we have measured the quantum state of a photon as it evolves in free flight and observe good agreement with theory.

Charles Bamber

16/09/14 – Galaxy Clusters in the Distant Universe

Kim-Vy Tran

Mitchell Institute, Texas A&M University
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound systems in the universe and are extreme laboratories for studying the physics driving galaxy evolution as well as powerful tests of cosmology.  Understanding how galaxies form and evolve in clusters continues to be a fundamental question in astrophysics. I present results from an ongoing multi-wavelength study of galaxies in distant clusters that we observe when the Universe was only a third of its current age. By combining observations from multiple space- and ground-based observatories, we track how galaxies in clusters assemble their stars and discover a record-breaking strong galaxy lens.

Kim Vy Tran

07/10/14 – Ultrafast and Ultrasmall Points of View About Magnetism

Sarnjeet Dhesi

Diamond Light Source / University of Leicester
Nanomagnetism and spintronics are ubiquitous in our everyday lives so that manipulating magnetism on ever smaller and faster scales has been a huge endeavour over the past few decades. With the advent of third generation synchrotron sources and free-electron lasers, producing brilliant polarised x-rays, unprecedented site and element-selective insights have been gained into the world of nanomagnetism, on the one hand, and the ultrafast control of magnetism on the other. At the Diamond Light Source synchrotron, electron microscopy combined with polarised x-ray spectroscopies allows high-resolution imaging of strain control of magnetism. At the Linac Coherent Light Source, femtosecond x-rays allow ultrafast melting of magnetic ordering in complex oxides to be followed. Here I will present several examples of how polarised x-rays can reveal the microscopic origin of novel magnetic effects.

Sarnjeet Dhesi

14/10/14 – From three dimensional radiation dosimetry to quantitative and hyperpolarized gas MRI

Yves De Deene

Macquarie University
Several technological innovations in radiotherapy have enabled the treatment of cancer in a conformal manner while accounting for patient and organ motion. With these improvements in radiation treatment modalities, new medical physics and engineering challenges are on the rise. Firstly, the complexity of high-precision conformal radiation treatments has increased the need for three dimensional (3D) dosimetric quality assurance (QA) to assure the radiation oncologist that the radiation dose distribution obtained in the patient matches the aimed dose distribution. Secondly, as the treatment volume is now more confined to the tumour, delineating the tumour has become more critical. In contemporary radiotherapy, the tumour volume is regarded as an invariant geometrical target during the course of the treatment. However, it is known that the tumour changes during fractionated radiotherapy. The development of quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) techniques will enable the assessment of tumour biology non-invasively, increase treatment efficiency and will give more insights in the biology of carcinogenesis. In this talk, it will be shown how humanoid shaped hydrogel phantoms can be used to safeguard the entire treatment chain of high-precision radiotherapy. In the perspective of using quantitative MRI parameters in assessing treatment response, the physical link between tissue microstructure, tumour physiology and quantitative MRI properties will be demonstrated. Finally, a method to enhance the MRI signal sensitivity with several orders of magnitude will be discussed. This method based on hyperpolarization through spin exchange optical pumping (SEOP) will enable physiological imaging of the lungs and molecular imaging with magnetically labelled tracers.

Yves De Deene

21/10/14 – Diamond Integrated Optomechanical Circuits

Patrik Rath

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
I present how to take advantage of the outstanding material properties of diamond to engineer full-scale optomechanical circuits. With the highest available Young’s modulus and its broadband transparency diamond is a promising material, both for nanomechanical resonators and for integrated optics. Using free-standing mechanical resonators with pg masses, embedded in on-chip Mach-Zehnder interferometers with high sensitivity, mechanical resonances with high quality factors up to 29 000 and frequencies up to 125 MHz are measured. Optical gradient forces and electro-capacitive forces are discussed, as two approaches for on-chip coherent excitation of mechanical motion. Combined with site specific parallel surface functionalization such diamond integrated circuits could find application in fundamental research, as well as for optomechanical sensing.

Patrik Rath

04/11/14 – Stellar Abundances in Dwarf Galaxies, and Beyond

Kim Venn

University of Victoria (Canada)
The chemistry that we can determine in stars is used to study the evolution of their host galaxy. Deviations that are found amongst the Galactic field stars, globular clusters, and dwarf satellites suggest a rich diversity of conditions in the early Universe and events thereafter that would have affected each galaxy differently. In this talk, I will discuss recent results from high resolution spectroscopy of individual red giants in dwarf galaxies, particularly the constraints provided by the alpha-elements (on galaxy evolution) and the neutron-capture elements (on the sites for heavy element nucleosynthesis). Early results in the search for metal-poor stars in the Galactic Centre are also providing a fresh approach to studying galaxy formation scenarios.

Kim Venn

11/11/14 – Topology and The Quantum World

Gavin Brennen

Macquarie University
Topology informs us how to distinguish spaces not by local structure like curvature, but instead in terms of global properties like holes and loops you can draw on the space; making a coffee cup equal a donut. It turns out there are surprising and deep connections between topological stability and stable quantum information processors. These devices use new kinds of particles called anyons that live in two dimensions, and I’ll describe the unusual physics we are exploring with these particles including localization via topological disorder, new phases of matter, and error protected quantum logical gates. Recently, we’ve shown how to prepare and measure topologically ordered states in a network a coupled light modes such as frequency combs. These states can used as an anonymous broadcasting channel to enable e.g. secure voting.

Gavin Brennen

18/11/14 – Measuring Heat in a Quantum Process

Kavan Modi

Monash University
Measuring work, heat, and temperature are essential to the theory of thermodynamics. However, In order to measure the work done on a system, one has to know the state of the system and the Hamiltonian throughout the process. This is typically not possible for a quantum process. We use recently developed schemes to measure the heat distribution for discrete quantum processes, described by completely-positive trace preserving maps. Our scheme should pave the way for experimental explorations of the Landauer principle and hence the intricate energy to information conversion in mesoscopic quantum systems.

Kavan Modi

25/11/14 – Human History as part of Cosmological History: Big History and the Big History Project

David Christian

Macquarie University
Big History teaches the history of the universe and places human history within that larger story. That means that Big History links the accounts of origins found within modern cosmology, astronomy, geology, biology, anthropology and human history into a single coherent narrative. As we have found over 25 years of teaching, linking these stories is doable and provides a very powerful way of helping students see the links between many different disciplines, and use those links to better understand the critical moment we are living through right now in the Anthropocene Epoch. Big History is also being taught now in many high schools through the Big history Project and I will spend some time describing that project and what it hopes to achieve.

David Christian

Semester 1 Talks

11/02/14 – Quantum Plasmonics – Taming Light at the Nanoscale

Jeremy Baumberg

University of Cambridge
How tightly can we confine light? For many years this was thought to be on the order of the optical wavelength, limiting the smallest volumes to a million cubic nanometres, but new realisations are allowing us to achieve 1 cubic nanometre. This opens up a new regime where we can watch single molecules, and sculpt directly on the nanoscale using light. By combining metallic nano-objects at very close distances, we squeeze light into these tiny dimensions at resonant wavelengths whose colour depends exquisitely on the nanoscale geometry. Below 1nm gaps, we detect the influence of quantum mechanics in the optical signatures, at room temperature and ambient conditions. This talk will describe the advances that make such optical compression possible, and what it will unlock for future science.

Jeremy Baumberg

25/03/14 – Opening Up the Mid-Infrared Using Fibre Lasers

Stuart Jackson

University of Sydney
The mid-infrared part of the infrared spectrum is an exciting area for research as most biological and chemical substances have strong absorption with light in this region. In my talk, I will discuss ways to generate mid-infrared light using high power fibre lasers in an effort to provide versatile and reliable light for numerous existing and new applications in medicine, industry, research and defence. Opportunities for collaboration will be identified.

Stuart Jackson

01/04/14 – Control Engineering in Quantum Coherent Systems

Mike Biercuk

University of Sydney
Tremendous research activity worldwide has focused on attempting to harness the exotic properties of quantum physics for new applications in metrology, computation, and communications – a push to develop engineered quantum systems. Underlying any such capability is the need to exert control over a chosen quantum system in order to coax it into performing useful tasks. In this talk we introduce the challenge of control engineering in these systems and show how advances in control promise to accelerate the development of quantum technologies. We motivate and introduce one framework that is proving useful in real experimental quantum systems: Open-loop control. Through a presentation of a series of experiments using trapped atomic ions as a model quantum system, we describe the utility of open-loop control in realizing noise filters protecting quantum systems against decoherence. We include presentation of experimental results describing the role of these control techniques for applications in quantum computation and quantum simulation, showing the versatility of the trapped-ion platform and a path towards large-scale quantum technologies.

Mike Biercuk

08/04/14 – Particles, Photons, and Phages

Ian Kennedy

University of California Davis
Combustion-generated, and intentionally generated nano materials can pose significant threats to human health. The engineering of novel materials can provide new tools for application to nano toxicology. In particular, the use of lanthanide-based phosphor materials can provide new ways of examining the toxicity and translocation of these materials in living systems. In addition to their potential toxicity, nano materials offer many new and exciting possibilities for application to sensing the environment around us and within our bodies. Super-paramagnetic nanoparticles have been used in a rotating microfluidic system with a stationary magnetic field to assemble long chains that improved mixing under very low Reynolds number conditions. The interaction of magnetic forces between particles and fluid forces that break them up have been examined and exploited to produce enhanced assays for proteins and other biomolecules. The optical properties of up-converting phosphors have been used to produce a new class of optically-active nano materials for use in a wide range of biological applications that will be discussed. Finally, the electrophoretic manipulation of nano particles, including bacteriophages that infect bacteria, into the structure of a photonic crystal has been demonstrated to provide an incredibly sensitive platform for application of both protein and DNA assays for use in a wide variety of possible biological applications: in the detection of infectious diseases; detection of protein biomarkers of disease; in the detection of mutations in DNA; finally, in the detection of bacteriophages that may have a significant economic impact on fermentation processes, including the dairy industry and the pharmaceutical industry.

Ian Kennedy

15/04/14 – Galaxies from the Dawn of Time

Ivo Labbé

Leiden Observatory
The arrival of modern space telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope have ushered in a true golden age in astronomy. We can now peer farther and deeper into the universe than ever before and are getting an astonishing glimpse of the distant past. The most sensitive astronomical picture ever taken, the so-called Hubble Ultra Deep Field, reveals a time long gone when galaxies like our Milky way were only just forming, bursting with explosive star formation and ultramassive black holes. Hubble’s powerful successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is now being built. Launched in 2018, it will allow astronomers to reach the ultimate goal: studying the entire cosmic history, from the very first exploding stars just after the Big Bang, to the rich universe filled with diverse populations of galaxies today.

Ivo Labbe

29/04/14 – Getting Ready for the Changing Sky

Orsola De Marco

Macquarie University
In this talk I will bring together planetary nebulae (PN) hydrodynamic simulations of binary interactions, intermediate luminosity optical transients and more in a review of the work past, present and future that’s being carried out by our group. I will start the story with planetary nebulae and the realisation that by and large these nebulae are not the product of peaceful single star evolution. They are instead likely to be the result of a binary interaction. Among the many possible binary interactions, we studied the common envelope interaction which, aside from being responsible for one in five PN, is also the gateway to a staggering amount of binary phenomena, including supernova type Ia. Simulations of common envelopes are not very advanced, and we have shown recently just how much we do not understand, along with ways to improve. Aside from simulations, there are other ways to understand these interactions, and I bring observations and analytical considerations to bear on common envelope jets, proposing them as one of the best way to understand common envelopes. It is also likely, that many binary interactions have a light signature and indeed there are outbursts that were ascribed to common envelopes interactions and mergers, such as V838 Mon or V1309 Sco. Such observations will multiply with new time-sensitive observing platforms, such as the LSST. Interestingly, today we think that some nebulae, including some PN, may be the aftermath of these outbursts, observed a few hundred years down the line. Our simulations of a variety of interactions (from those with stars in eccentric orbits, to those where the companion is only a planet), attempt to explore parameter space, an exploration that will be enhanced by our new light module to model and predict lightcurves from transients.

Orsola DeMarco

06/05/14 – Light Wave-Particle Duality: From Newton to Quantum Optics

Peter Knight

Kavli Royal Society International Centre, Chicheley Hall, Buckinghamshire and Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London
Attempts to understand the nature of light have been central to the historical development of physics. Although understanding the duality of wave and particle challenges our classical intuition, one cannot escape asking hard questions on this issue, and indeed this subject was at the heart of Bohr-Einstein debate in the early years of the 20th century. The emergence of quantum optics and especially studies of the nature of nonclassical light and its exploitation in quantum computing and quantum cryptography have put this back at the heart of current physics. This talk will review the development of wave particle duality, discuss its central place in the modern theory of quantum optics, and consider implications of the subject for current research.

Peter Knight

13/05/14 – When Did Plate Tectonics Begin?

Stephen Foley

Macquarie University
The Earth cooled from a probably largely molten state 4.57 billion years ago to its present state where plate tectonics operates. Plate tectonics describes the lateral movement of rigid plates of lithosphere up to 250 km thick, whose movements are controlled by convection currents in the solid mantle. However, the time at which plate tectonics began to function is hotly debated, principally due to the rarity of evidence in the rock record: most rocks now found at the Earth’s surface are younger than 550 million years, and examples from the Archean (4.0 – 2.5 Ga) form just a small fraction of present crustal rocks. Many lines of evidence that underpinned the plate tectonic revolution around 50 years ago cannot be applied to Archean rocks, and so we are left discussing indirect geological and geochemical evidence. This presentation discusses the options and attempts to make sense of the blurry signals from the early history of the Earth.

Stephen Foley

20/05/14 – ARC Centre of Excellence in Nanoscale BioPhotonics

Ewa Goldys

Macquarie University
While an understanding of many of the building blocks and processes of life has been forged by taking cells and systems outside the body, much more can be learnt from working within. The Centre of Excellence in Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) will perform the science required to open new windows into the body. This interdisciplinary program will enable targeted measurements of biological, chemical and physical processes to be performed within the complex and dynamic microenvironment that cells experience, creating scientific insights and disruptive technologies.

Ewa Goldys

27/05/14 – Artificial Synthesis of Complex Biological Nanomachines with DNA Origami Nanostructure Scaffolds

Lawrence Lee

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
Nanoscale rotary motors are everywhere in nature. The largest and most sophisticated of these, the bacterial flagellar motor (BFM), is a >11 mega Dalton superstructure consisting of hundreds of proteins. Fuelled by an electrochemical gradient, it is equipped with an impressive molecular engine that converts a flux of cations into mechanical rotation at speeds of up to 1700Hz, yet also allows the motor to shift into reverse in a handful of milliseconds, tune its speed and stop either via a molecular brake or clutch. The big question that arises when considering such a massive and dynamic structure is simple: How it can possibly work? How can activity be coordinated such that proteins that are hundreds of angstroms apart orchestrate their motions to achieve a single purpose? Here, I describe a new research initiative to study complex biological machines by artificially synthesising them from the bottom-up using DNA origami nanostructural scaffolds. I will discuss the general approach and potential implications of studying biology from the bottom-up.

Lawrence Lee

03/06/14 – Quantum Information Processing with Single Atoms in Silicon

Andrea Morello

UNSW
A phosphorus (31P) atom in silicon is, almost literally, the equivalent of a hydrogen atom in vacuum. It possesses electron and nuclear spins 1/2 which act as natural qubits, and the host material can be isotopically purified to be almost perfectly free of other spin species, ensuring extraordinary coherence times. I will present the current state-of-the-art in silicon quantum information technologies. Both the electron and the nuclear spin of a single 31P atom can be read out in single-shot with high fidelity, through a nanoelectronic device compatible with standard semiconductor fabrication. High-frequency microwave pulses can be used to prepare arbitrary quantum states of the spin qubits, with fidelity in excess of 99%. Our latest experiment on the 31P nucleus has established the record coherence time (35 seconds) for any single qubit in solid state. Finally, I will discuss current efforts to scale up the system to multi-qubit quantum logic operations. We have proposed a new scheme for entangling two-qubit logic gates that does not require atomically precise placement of the 31P donors, and we are exploring cavity-mediated long-distance spin coupling. These results show that silicon – the material underpinning the whole modern computing era – can be successfully adapted to host quantum information hardware.

Andrea Morello

10/06/14 – Cosmic Fullerines

Jan Cami

University of Western Ontario
In recent years, the fullerene species C60 (and to a lesser extent C70) has been detected in a variety of astrophysical environments — from the circumstellar carbon-rich surroundings of evolved stars to interstellar reflection nebulae and young stellar objects. Understanding how these species form, evolve and respond to their environment yields important insights into the characteristics of large aromatics in space — thought to be the main reservoir of organic material in space. Here, I will present an overview of what we have learned about cosmic fullerenes from astronomical observations, with an emphasis on the conditions that appear to be conducive to the formation and/or detection of fullerenes in evolved stars environments, and their possible connection to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules, hydrogenated amorphous carbon grains and other dust components. I will also highlight some of the difficulties we still face in interpreting the astronomical observations, in particular concerning viable formation routes in space, and about the details of their excitation.

Jan Cami

17/06/14 – Ultracold Electrons and Ions from Laser-Cooled Atoms

Rob Scholten

University of Melbourne
“Quantum technology” normally conjures thoughts of computation and communication, but also has exciting potential applications in new ways of measuring and imaging at the nanometer scale. Imaging is a vexing problem at the atomic scale, where there is demand for new advances, for example to determine the structure of bio-molecules. We have developed a new source of high-coherence electron and ion bunches based on photoionisation of laser-cooled atoms. With laser control of the cold atom cloud, we can shape the charge bunches, and because the particles are so cold, they retain their shape during propagation. While labelled by colleagues as “the world’s most expensive TV”, the cold atom electron/ion source offers the control needed to generate ultra-high-brightness bunches for coherent diffractive imaging at nanometer and femtosecond resolution.

Robert Scholten

24/06/14 – Planetary Nebulae: Windows into the Soul of Stellar Death

Quentin Parker

Macquarie University
Planetary nebulae (PN) are nothing to do with planets but are the ghostly, glowing shrouds of dying stars. They are extremely powerful astrophysical tools and fascinating objects in their own right. They offer a brief window into the soul of most stars lives, including our own Sun and also hold the solution to mysteries of late stage stellar evolution. Over the last 15 years significant numbers of Galactic PNe have been discovered, more than doubling the totals accrued by all telescopes over the previous 200+ years. Most of these discoveries have been made by the team at Macquarie University. The scope for modern PNe studies for the ~3500 Galactic PN now known should now reflect this new landscape, coloured and nuanced by these new discoveries and the massive, new high sensitivity, high resolution, multi-wavelength imaging surveys now available. Following this motivation we provide, for the first time, an accessible, reliable on-line “one-stop” imaging and spectroscopic database for essential, up-to date information for all known Galactic PN to provide the community with the most complete data with which to undertake new science! In this presentation Professor Parker will describe this powerful new utility and the associated fundamental PN research that has been undertaken and is still underway at Macquarie University.

Quentin Parker
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