The Astronomy Diaries: I did an experiment on my students

Q: Why do researchers do experiments on university students?A: Because rats are expensive and you grow attached to them. Since 2014 I have helped to teach two astronomy units at the University of Western Australia, Our Universe and Our Solar System. These are relatively basic first-year astronomy units designed to be taken by non-science students … Continue reading The Astronomy Diaries: I did an experiment on my students

Twisting light: creating an optical vortex

Sometimes ideas for research projects can come from unusual places. For me, this project started when I signed up to the ACT Science Mentors program to mentor a high school student through a research project. The student I was partnered with was very interested in quantum mechanics, and had already measured the Boltzmann constant in … Continue reading Twisting light: creating an optical vortex

Fast steering optical phased array: how to trick a control system

Optical phased arrays are a way to construct a really powerful laser beam, and steer it precisely without mirrors or lenses. Making an optical phased array that can steer millions of times per second would be a huge boon to systems like LIDAR for autonomous cars. But to make something move that fast, you need … Continue reading Fast steering optical phased array: how to trick a control system

Hoaxes, humour, and haggis – the weird world of publish or perish

Papers are the currency of the academic world. All academics know that they must “publish or perish” in an environment where resources are slim and competition is fierce. But that doesn’t stop us from having some fun with our papers. Entertaining titles, jokes, hidden surprises, and even the occasional hoax can be found in just … Continue reading Hoaxes, humour, and haggis – the weird world of publish or perish

Getting in Sync with the SKA

With thousands of radio dishes spread over thousands of kilometres, the Square Kilometre Array will be the largest and most powerful radio telescope in the world and able to explore the deepest regions of the cosmos. But only if these thousands of radio dishes, some hundreds of kilometres apart, can be synchronized to within a … Continue reading Getting in Sync with the SKA

Spooky Action at a Distance

Quantum mechanics is weird. To be a physicist you have to accept that the microscopic, underlying reality of nature looks and behaves very differently to the laws of physics we are used to in our every day lives. Many physicists struggle to accept this, including Einstein. Einstein disliked the fact that quantum mechanics, a theory … Continue reading Spooky Action at a Distance

Between a clock and outer space

We used a telescope and a high-precision laser system to beam an atomic clock signal through thin air. While we only sent the signal between buildings, this is the first step in developing a system able to beam these signals to satellites in orbit, with the ultimate aim of pushing our theories of the universe … Continue reading Between a clock and outer space