Quantum key distribution offers a way to transmit data with security guaranteed by the laws of physics themselves. While these communications cannot be hacked, my colleagues and I found that they can be jammed. The security of our modern communications systems, from emails to banking, from militaries to private individuals, rely on the immense difficulty … Continue reading Can Quantum Communications be Jammed?
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
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
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
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
Every so often I see a certain fun fact or news item about chocolates or soft drink do the rounds of the internet. The most recent example I saw said that when a KitKat fails quality control, it doesn’t get thrown out, instead it gets mashed up into the chocolate paste that fills the KitKat … Continue reading The Maths of Recycled KitKats
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
One of the paybacks of being a scientist is that if you create some new thing or discover a new phenomenon, you get to name it. Biologists can name a new species after friends or family, experimenters enjoy finding clever acronyms to call their equipment, and astronomers have the opportunity to etch their choices into … Continue reading What’s in a name?
There is an old adage in the performing arts that you should never work with animals or children, though as a rule of thumb it seems to apply equally well to just about any profession. As an experimental physicist, I thought I had managed to steer clear of the troubles that working with animals and … Continue reading Natural anomalies: when animals get in the way of science
Science inspires art and art inspires science. It is unfortunate that our society considers science and art to be at opposition, rather than equal parts in the complex experience that it is to be human. Einstein played the violin, Queen guitarist Brian May has a PhD in astrophysics, Brian Cox was a keyboard player before … Continue reading Facing the Music: science inspired album covers