World's thinnest wire a quantum leap forward (Jan 6)
UNSW physicists have invented the world's narrowest conducting silicon wire – 10,000 times thinner than a human hair – with the same capacity to conduct electricity as a traditional copper wire. The nanowire, four atoms wide and one atom high, is a significant advancement for the team, which is part of an international race to build the world's first quantum computer. The research paper is in the journal Science. A popular version is in the Sydney Morning Herald
Physclips wins education category of The Australian Shell Innovation Challenge (Dec 9)
University of NSW physicist Joe Wolfe was issued with a challenge. It was the International Year of Physics as well as the centenary of Einstein’s special theory of relativity and Wolfe was asked to explain the theory in 15 minutes or less. Wolfe’s EinsteinLight web-based tutorial was born. It became the precursor to Physclips.
Physclips is a freely available new media technology platform for learning physics, or for teaching it, at the senior high school or introductory university level. Currently, it comprises completed volumes on mechanics, special relativity, sound and waves, and has various collections of resources for electricity, magnetism and thermal physics. He says the platform and its interactivity provide a learning experience that goes beyond chalk and talk.
Scientist of the Year: Michelle Simmons (Nov 23)
UNSW researchers have been honoured by winning six out of the 10 categories in the NSW Government’s 2011 Science and Engineering Awards by, including the main honour of NSW Scientist of the Year.
The top prize went to Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons, who is the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology. She is also a Federation Fellow and a Professor of Physics at UNSW. Professor Simmons also won the category for Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy. Read full story
Light from the void: landmark experiment shows space is not empty (Nov 17)
An ingenious experiment in which tiny parcels of light, or photons, are produced out of empty space has confirmed a long-standing theory that a vacuum contains quantum fluctuations of energy.
In a landmark result published in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers has demonstrated for the first time a strange phenomenon known as the dynamical Casimir effect, or DCE for short. Read full story
Across the Universe: does physics have local by-laws? (Oct 31)
One of the laws of nature may change with location in the Universe, a study published today in the journal Physical Review Letters suggests.
A cherished principle in science - the constancy of physics - may not be true, according to the research carried out at the University of New South Wales, Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Cambridge.
The study found that one of the four fundamental forces, electromagnetism - measured by the so-called fine-structure constant and denoted by the symbol alpha - seems to vary across the Universe.
The first hints that alpha might not be constant came a decade ago when Professor John Webb and Professor Victor Flambaum, in the School of Physics and other colleagues at UNSW and elsewhere, analysed data from the Keck Observatory, in Hawaii. Those observations were restricted to one direction in the sky. Read full story
Space is getting crowded... with new planets (May 29)
The world's largest and most prolific team of planet hunters has announced the discovery of 28 new planets outside our solar system, raising to 236 the total number of known exoplanets.
Among the 28 new worlds are at least four new multiple-planet systems, says astronomer Professor Chris Tinney, of the UNSW School of Physics, who heads the Australian part of the team.
The planets were found by closely observing their gravitational pull on their parent stars: "The more we look, the more we find planets," said Professor Tinney, whose team used the Anglo-Australian Observatory, near Coonabarabran. "Something like 10 to 15 per cent of stars host gas giants. A larger fraction of stars may host planets too small for us to detect." Read full story