Belvedere Ampitheatre image

Belvedere Ampitheatre will come alive at dusk on Saturday. Photo: Peter Solness

National Science Week is upon us and it’s being celebrated locally as the inaugural Sydney Science Festival.

Naturally there are the big-name events, such as singing astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield, US “celebrity” astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki​.

But there are plenty of other events that you should put into your diary.

Here are some that are well worth catching.


1…Field of Orbs
Saturday, August 15, 5.30pm, Centennial Park.

Field of Orbs image

Belvedere Amphitheatre, Centennial Park. Photo: Centennial Parklands

Be part of a light painting extravaganza in Centennial Park as the sun goes down on Saturday evening.

2…100 years of Einstein’s gravity revolution
Monday, August 17, 6.30pm, University of Sydney.
A handwritten detail from Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity image

A handwritten detail from Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Photo: David Silverman

Albert Einstein published his general theory of relativity in 1915. The world has never been the same since. Sydney University’s Professor Geraint Lewis will discuss how his theories of space-time, black holes and expanding universes have changed our world.

3…Lloyd Godson, Undersea Survivor
August 18-23, Maritime Museum.
Underwater living enthusiast Lloyd Godson image

Underwater living enthusiast Lloyd Godson. Photo: Ocean Exploration Trust

Lloyd Godson is passionate about the human potential for living under the sea. Using technology from Google Lloyd will be streaming from his prototype underwater habitat. Check it out.

4...Kinda Thinky panel discussion on ‘Excess’
Wednesday, August 19, Powerhouse bar.
Kinda Thinky panel discussion image

Kinda Thinky is an irreverent theme-driven live chat show.

How much stuff is too much? And why do we all want to live longer? Featuring Father Rod Bower, the Gosford Anglican priest behind the provocative political church signs, with recycler David Singh, longevity expert Dr Samantha Solon-Biet, and architect Melonie Bayl-Smith. It’s adults only, with a cash bar. Hosted by Will Grant and Rod Lamberts. Should be fun.

5…Know your own genome
Thursday, August 20, 5pm, Garvan Institute, Darlinghurst.A replica of the human neuropeptide Y gene at the Garvan Institute image

A replica of the human neuropeptide Y gene at the Garvan Institute. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Do you really want to know your own genome? Discover what genetic testing might reveal and the ethics behind finding out. With world-renowned genetic counsellor Professor Kelly Ormond.

6…Particle Fever
Thursday, August 20, 6pm, University of Sydney.
Particle accelerator switzerland image

The Large Hadron particle accelerator at CERN, Switzerland.

The story behind the Large Hadron Collider and the hunt for the Higgs boson. With a special live introduction by Associate Professor Kevin Varvell​, Sydney director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics.

7…Quantum computing and teleportation
Thursday, August 20, 6.30pm, Footbridge Theatre, University of Sydney. 

An atomic-scale transistor image

An atomic-scale transistor. Photo: UNSW

Will quantum computers really allow us to teleport objects including ourselves? Join world-class physicists Professor Michelle Simmons, University of New South Wales, and Professor Ping Koy Lam, Australian National University, for a discussion about teleportation and other strange properties of the quantum world.

8…Family day: Indigenous science experience
Saturday, August 22, 10am-4pm, Redfern Community Centre.
Emu in the Milky Way image

Emu in the Milky Way, courtesy Barnaby Norris. Photo: act\ian.warden

A hands-on exploration and celebration of Aboriginal and European science, demonstrating the value of traditional knowledge. Hosted by the National Indigenous Science Education Program, Macquarie University, Inspiring Australia, Redfern Community Centre and the City of Sydney.

9…SMH Live: Science and Innovation
Thursday, August 27, 6pm, Australian National Maritime Museum.

science-SMH team image
Can we ever be the clever country? While the rest of the world is embracing science and innovation in the hunt for new jobs and greater economic opportunities, Australia is at risk of lagging behind. Join SMH’s Science Editor, Nicky Phillips, and our expert panel of commentators as they unpick the challenges that stand in the way of us being a truly, science and innovation-led nation.
Henry Sapiecha

President Obama presents the National Medal of Science to awardee Maya Berenbaum.image

At a White House ceremony last Thursday, President Obama presented the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. The awards are the nation’s highest honors for achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of science and technology.

“The story of these trailblazers reflects our bigger American story of constant transformation,” President Obama said. “They represent the spirit that has always defined the American people, one of restless searching for the right solution to any problem; an inclination to dream big dreams; and an insistence on making those dreams come true.”

Administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Medal of Science was established by the 86th Congress in 1959 as a presidential award to be given to individuals “deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical or engineering sciences.” In 1980 Congress expanded this recognition to include the social and behavioral sciences.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation was created by statute in 1980 and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the nation’s technological workforce.

Awarded annually, the Medal honors the Nation’s visionary thinkers whose creativity and intellect have made a lasting impact on the United States and its workforce. The President receives nominations from a committee of presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge of chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, and the biological, behavioral/social, and physical sciences.

Among this year’s 10 recipients of the National Medal of Science, nine received NSF support at some point in their research careers, for a cumulative total of more than $35 million.

A committee of 12 scientists and engineers is appointed by the president to evaluate the nominees for the award. Since its establishment, the National Medal of Science has been awarded to 487 distinguished scientists and engineers whose careers spanned decades of research and development. The recipients database, with information from 1962 to the present, is searchable by name, affiliation and other criteria.

The names, affiliations, and short biographies of this year’s National Medal of Science Laureates follow:

Bruce Alberts, University of California, San Francisco

Bruce Alberts is an internationally-renowned biochemist and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition to his research in the field of DNA replication, he is an avid proponent of improving science and mathematics education and international scientific cooperation.

Robert Axelrod, University of Michigan

Robert Axelrod is renowned for his work on the evolution of cooperation and its application across disciplines, from the social sciences to biology and computer science. He is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

May Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

May Berenbaum’s pioneering studies of insect-plant co-evolution and her extensive public engagement have made her a world-renowned expert on all insect-related matters. Dr. Berenbaum is Professor and Head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Alexandre J. Chorin, University of California, Berkeley

Alexandre Chorin is an applied mathematician known for his contributions to computational fluid mechanics. He is a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Thomas Kailath, Stanford University

Thomas Kailath is an electrical engineer known for his contributions to the information and system sciences. He is currently the Hitachi America Professorship of Engineering, Emeritus at Stanford University.

Judith P. Klinman, University of California, Berkeley

Judith Klinman is a physical-organic chemist renowned for her work on enzymes. She is currently a professor of chemistry and of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Jerrold Meinwald, Cornell University

Jerrold Meinwald is considered one of the fathers of chemical ecology. He is currently the Goldwin Smith Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at Cornell University.

Burton Richter, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University

Burton Richter is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist known for co-discovering the J/Psi meson. He is the Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical Sciences at Stanford University.

Sean C. Solomon, Columbia University

Geophysicist Sean Solomon is director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, where he is also the William B. Ransford Professor of Earth and Planetary Science.

And a posthumous Medal to:

David Blackwell, University of California, Berkeley

David Blackwell (1919-2010) was a towering figure in the fields of probability, statistics, and the mathematical sciences. He was a professor emeritus of mathematics and statistics at the University of California, Berkeley.

National Medal of Technology and Innovation awardees:

Charles W. Bachman, Mass.

Edith M. Flanigen, UOP, LLC., a Honeywell Company, N.Y.

Eli Harari, SanDisk Corporation, Calif.

Thomas Fogarty, Fogarty Institute for Innovation, Calif.

Arthur D. Levinson, Calico, Calif.

Cherry A. Murray, Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Mary Shaw, Carnegie Mellon University

Douglas Lowy and John Schiller, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health


Henry Sapiecha


It was announced less than 24 hours ago, but rows over who deserves credit have already broken out. Melbourne Australia scientists gather for awards.
Phi Sciences

It’s good news for physicists, but a big headache for the Nobel committee.

The discovery – or near discovery – of the Higgs boson, will see someone win a Nobel prize, but deciding who deserves credit for the work is a minefield. Traditionally, the science Nobel prizes are given to a maximum of three people, whose contributions are judged to be the most important.

British physicist Peter Higgs congratulates the experiment team after last night's announcment.

British physicist Peter Higgs congratulates the experiment team after last night’s announcement. Photo: Reuters
Phi Sciences

The rule is archaic in that it harks back to a time when much of science was done by individuals or smaller groups. Two teams of scientists at Cern, amounting to thousands of people, carried out the painstaking work of spotting traces of the particle amid the subatomic debris of more than a thousand trillion collisions inside the Large Hadron Collider. All deserve credit for that effort.

But this is the least of the Nobel committee’s problems. The prize is more likely to go to theoretical physicists who worked on the theory almost 50 years ago. Here the parentage becomes more muddled.

Six physicists published the theory within four months of each other in 1964. They built on the work of others.

Physicists applaud the Higgs boson announcement in Melbourne.

Physicists applaud the announcement last night in Melbourne. Photo: Angela Wylie
AlertForce - OHS Training Courses Online

The first to publish, that August, were Robert Brout and Francois Englert at the Free University of Brussels. Brout died in 2011, and the award cannot be given posthumously.

Second to publish was Peter Higgs, with two papers on the theory in September and October 1964. In his second, he became the first to mention explicitly that the theory demanded a new particle in nature, which was given the name Higgs boson in 1972.

Third to publish was a group of three theorists, including two US researchers, Dick Hagen and Gerry Guralnik, and a British physicist, Tom Kibble. Their work was published in November.

Professor Geoffrey Taylor.P

Professor Geoffrey Taylor. Photo: Angela Wylie

All three teams worked independently.

Naturally Gifted - gifts with a natural difference

So there are at least five living physicists who can lay claim to the Nobel prize. If the particle discovered at Cern is confirmed to be the Higgs boson, then Higgs is certain to be honoured. That leaves four physicists competing for two places. Englert published first, and would be hard to dismiss. That leaves one place.

Rows over who deserves credit have already broken out. In 2010, the US physicists complained when the organisers of a conference in Paris on the Higgs particle credited only Higgs, Englert and Brout for the theory.

The quandary raises a familiar issue for the Nobel committee. Restricting those honoured with a Nobel helps maintain their prestige. But in modern science, few discoveries are born in final form from so few parents.

Phi Sciences

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Party out of poverty

6:47am 31st Jan 2011- A large crowd of ‘mad scientists’ gathered at Scitech over the weekend to party the night away for charity.
Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha
Get a firsthand look at COMSOL Multiphysics Version 4.1. This latest release of the industry-leading multiphysics simulation environment features several enhancements that directly result in productivity gains for end users. The innovative Model Builder is upgraded to include even more graphical programming functionality, including instant replication of nodes in Model Tree. Advanced users will benefit from the equation view for all physics interfaces. Meshing includes an improved algorithm to take into account the model’s physics, called physics-induced meshing. And visualization now supports labeled contours and polar plots. See all these features and more by attending this webinar.
David Kan
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For more information and to register, click here.
Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

1901 : First Nobel Prizes awarded
December 10: General Interest

Alfred Nobel, Copyright © The Nobel Foundation

Alfred Nobel

The Man Behind the Nobel Prize

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been honoring men and women from all corners of the globe for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work in peace. The foundations for the prize were laid in 1895 when Alfred Nobel wrote his last will, leaving much of his wealth to the establishment of the Nobel Prize. But who was Alfred Nobel? Articles, photographs, a slide show and poetry written by Nobel himself are available to give a glimpse of a man whose varied interests are reflected in the prize he established. Meet Alfred Nobel – scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, author and pacifist.

The first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed in a fund in which the interest would be “annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Although Nobel offered no public reason for his creation of the prizes, it is widely believed that he did so out of moral regret over the increasingly lethal uses of his inventions in war.

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born in Stockholm in 1833, and four years later his family moved to Russia. His father ran a successful St. Petersburg factory that built explosive mines and other military equipment. Educated in Russia, Paris, and the United States, Alfred Nobel proved a brilliant chemist. When his father’s business faltered after the end of the Crimean War, Nobel returned to Sweden and set up a laboratory to experiment with explosives. In 1863, he invented a way to control the detonation of nitroglycerin, a highly volatile liquid that had been recently discovered but was previously regarded as too dangerous for use. Two years later, Nobel invented the blasting cap, an improved detonator that inaugurated the modern use of high explosives. Previously, the most dependable explosive was black powder, a form of gunpowder.

Nitroglycerin remained dangerous, however, and in 1864 Nobel’s nitroglycerin factory blew up, killing his younger brother and several other people. Searching for a safer explosive, Nobel discovered in 1867 that the combination of nitroglycerin and a porous substance called kieselguhr produced a highly explosive mixture that was much safer to handle and use. Nobel christened his invention “dynamite,” for the Greek word dynamis, meaning “power.” Securing patents on dynamite, Nobel acquired a fortune as humanity put his invention to use in construction and warfare.

In 1875, Nobel created a more powerful form of dynamite, blasting gelatin, and in 1887 introduced ballistite, a smokeless nitroglycerin powder. Around that time, one of Nobel’s brothers died in France, and French newspapers printed obituaries in which they mistook him for Alfred. One headline read, “The merchant of death is dead.” Alfred Nobel in fact had pacifist tendencies and in his later years apparently developed strong misgivings about the impact of his inventions on the world. After he died in San Remo, Italy, on December 10, 1896, the majority of his estate went toward the creation of prizes to be given annually in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The portion of his will establishing the Nobel Peace Prize read, “[one award shall be given] to the person who has done the most or best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Exactly five years after his death, the first Nobel awards were presented.

Today, the Nobel Prizes are regarded as the most prestigious awards in the world in their various fields. Notable winners have included Marie Curie, Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Nelson Mandela. Multiple leaders and organizations sometimes receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and multiple researchers often share the scientific awards for their joint discoveries. In 1968, a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science was established by the Swedish national bank, Sveriges Riksbank, and first awarded in 1969.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decides the prizes in physics, chemistry, and economic science; the Swedish Royal Caroline Medico-Surgical Institute determines the physiology or medicine award; the Swedish Academy chooses literature; and a committee elected by the Norwegian parliament awards the peace prize. The Nobel Prizes are still presented annually on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death. In 2006, each Nobel Prize carried a cash prize of nearly $1,400,000 and recipients also received a gold medal, as is the tradition.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha