[ASC-media] Space, fusion, the perfect metre, teleportation

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Mon Dec 4 00:09:36 CET 2006

Physics, society and the future - RiverPhys this week in Brisbane

Australia's physicists are meeting in Brisbane this week. They'll be discussing the latest discoveries, and the implications for society. They also have an impressive line up of international speakers who are available to talk to the media. 

The conference runs from Monday 4 December to Friday 8 December.  The full program is at  www.aipc2006.com 

Cathy Foley, incoming president of the Australian Institute of Physics can talk about the big picture - the ideas and issues under discussion over the week.  And here are some story ideas. 

One metre - now the distance light travels in a 299,792,458th of a second. Does it matter?

2005 US Nobel Laureate John Hall can discuss how lasers have changed society and what is to come.  His discoveries allowed us to precisely measure and tune laser beams. As a result the metre has been redefined as the distance light travels in one 299,792,458th of a second. Does that matter? Yes - it's the key to even more accurate clocks, precise GPS, faster computer chips, and even the discovery of Earth-like planets around distant stars. 

"My teaching caused students to fail..." 

says Eric Mazur, a physicist at Harvard University. According to Professor Mazur, what goes on in 99 per cent of science lectures is a transfer of information from the lecturer to furiously scribbling students, without the information "passing though the brains of either". He now uses a process of Peer Instruction.


Anton Zellinger will talk about his Austrian team's progress with quantum teleportation and quantum encryption - it's a long way from Star Trek's teleporters, but has profound implications for secure communications. His team recently established a 144 km secure link between two Canary Islands. 

Fusion - future salvation or pipe dream?

Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith heads the British effort to establish fusion power. A former director general of CERN, he can talk about whether fusion is a viable future option for clean energy. He can also talk about the reality of antimatter - a few molecules in the lab, but not the gram or so featured in Dan Brown's thriller 'Angels and Demons'. 
Llewellyn Smith will feature in a debate on nuclear energy on Thursday. 

Europe's future in space

Space isn't just for the Americans and Russians according to David Southwood, Director of Science at the European Space Agency. Europe has been to Mars and Titan. Is it important to broaden participation in space exploration? Why does it matter? Southwood will argue that as well as our desire to find out where life and we came from, there are some very down-to-Earth reasons for going into space.

The physics of music

Professor Joe Wolfe and his group at the School of Physics, UNSW, have developed a technique to study the acoustics of musical instruments and of the vocal tract. They have also looked at the production and analysis of sound by physiological, mechanical and electronic systems. They are collaborating with Cochlear Ltd on the coding of music, and with local instrument makers. 

Physicists vote on nuclear energy

What do physicists think of nuclear energy? On Thursday delegates will participate in and vote on a range of questions as part of a debate with:

§	Ron Cameron (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation)
§	Aidan Byrne (ANU Nuclear Physicist)
§	Sir Chris Llewellyn-Smith (leads the UK's thermonuclear fusion programme) 
§	Andrew Blakers (Director - Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems) 
§	Dr Jim Green (National Nuclear Campaigner for Friends of the Earth
§	Dr Mark Diesendorf (UNSW Institute for Environmental Studies)

Chaired by David Jamieson (AIP President)

The audience will be invited to vote via an interactive "clicker" voting system kindly provided by KEEPAD. 

Full program available at: www.aipc2006.com 

To speak to any of these people contact the conference media contacts:

Halina Rubenstein-Dunlop 0410 643 095, Susan Grantham 0404 784 314 and Robert Sang (0412) 095 699.


Niall Byrne

Science Communication Consultant
Science in Public
PO Box 199 Drysdale 3222 Australia
(185 Scotchmans Road Portarlington 3223) Ph +61 3 5253 1391, fax +61 3 9923 6008, mobile 0417 131 977 
niall at scienceinpublic.com or niallprivate at scienceinpublic.com for personal matters

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