Apollo 11, Nat’l Sci Week. VicPhys News 1/T3/19

There are many Apollo 11 events on this week in Melbourne and elsewhere, the July Lectures in Physics continue and National Science Week events start in a few weeks.

It is also now time to think about offering a workshop at next year’s Physics Teachers’ Conference.

This newsletter has an article on trends and projections on the participation in VCE Physics. How many students will be doing VCE physics in 5 years time?

Bookings are open for the last Girls in Physics Breakfast of 2019 at Monash University on 28th August.

The next meeting of the Vicphysics Teachers’ Network will be on Tuesday, 23rd July at Melbourne Girls’ College starting at 5:00pm. Note the change of date.  Teachers are welcome to these meetings. If you wish to come, please email Vicphysics

Frances Sidari (Pres), Jane Coyle (Vice-Pres), Dan O’Keeffe (Sec) and Terry Tan (Treas)

Table of Contents

  1. Call for Conference Presenters for 2020 Physics Teachers’ Conference
  2. Apollo 11 Events
  3. National Science Week Events
  4. Participation in VCE Physics: Trends and Projections
  5. Events for Students and the General Public

6. Events for Teachers

7. Physics News from the Web

  •  New device excels at making hydrogen using concentrated sunlight.
  •  Summer weather extremes linked to stalled Rossby waves in the jet stream
  • QB or not QB – that is the question for quantum physicists and philosophers.
1.  Call for Conference Presenters for 2020 Physics Teachers’ Conference.
We invite you to consider presenting a workshop for your colleagues at next year’s Physics Teachers’ Conference. We all have much to share. The conference will be on Friday, 14th February at La Trobe University.

A distinctive feature of the Physics Teachers’ Conference over the years has been the large number of teachers who offer workshops about what they do.  These workshops are not only beneficial for other teachers, but they also significantly enhance the curriculum vitae of the presenters and their own personal skills. With the new course bedding down, the conference is an ideal forum for you to share your ideas on teaching the new content and the different ways of assessing.

If you would like to offer a workshop, please register the workshop on the STAV website, here.  Theclosing date for registrations is Friday, 20th September.

  • The presenter and only one co-presenter are free of charge for the session they are presenting.
  • All such presenters are able to register “free of charge” for other sessions at this conference.
  • All subsequent co-presenters are charged $75 each and need to register to attend sessions.
  • Presenters are not paid any fee nor is CRT covered.

2.. Apollo 11 Events
There are several Apollo 11 related events this week and in the coming weeks.  They are across Victoria.

Geelong Gallery: The Moon.  Through to 1st September: Free
Venue: Geelong Gallery 2, Little Malop St, Geelong.
Tours each Saturday from 11.00am and on Sundays from 11.00am and 2.00pm.
Gippsland Gallery: Space – 50 years since Man first stepped on the Moon.  20th July to 8th September: Free
Venue: Gippsland Art Gallery, 70 Foster St, Sale
A real time journey of the Apollo mission 

A real-time journey through the first landing on the Moon This website consists entirely of original historical mission material including real-time elements: All mission control film footage, All TV transmissions and onboard film footage, 2,000 photographs, 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio, 240 hours of space-to-ground audio, All onboard recorder audio, 15,000 searchable utterances, Post-mission commentary and Astromaterials sample data. (Supplied by Sandor Kazi)

3. National Science Week Events

4. Participation in VCE Physics: Trends and Projections
The number of students doing VCE Units 3 & 4 has been about 7500 for the last few years. Based on current trends and the number of students now in primary and secondary schools, this number should reach 8500 in 2024 and 9500 in 2030.
A full analysis is provided on our website here , but key aspects are covered below.
Student numbers at Year 12 are affected by population changes and changes in the retention rate (i.e. the percentage of Year 10 students who stay on to Year 12).  To get a meaningful measure of the intrinsic popularity of the subject, it is better to express the number of physics students as a percentage of the age cohort and see how this has varied over time.

The graph on the right shows much variation over the years.  There is a noticeable spike in 1992 coinciding with the introduction of the VCE.  Much political discussion on science education focusses on the decline post 1992, but research on the increase pre 1992 may be more fruitful.

Graphs of the proportion of Year 10 students who do Year 11 Physics the following year and the proportion of students doing Unit 2 who do Unit 3 the following year, both reveal interesting data.  The percentage of Year 10 students choosing to do Unit 1 Physics in Year 11 has been slowly declined from 1996 to 2010 with some levelling out since then.  This drop off has been somewhat countered by an increase of the retention from Unit 2 to Unit 3.

The projected student numbers to 2024 and 2030 are based on current student numbers from Foundation Year to Year 11 and assume the current participation rate of the age cohort is unchanged.

5.   Events for Students and the General Public

a) ANSTO Big Ideas Forum,  Applications now open.
The ANSTO Big Ideas Forum brings 22 Year 10 students and 11 teachers from across Australia to Sydney to meet world-class researchers and go hands-on with amazing technology.  Applications must be for two students and one teacher.
When: Monday 11 November -Thursday 14 November, 2019
Applications opened:  Friday 31 May 2019. To apply you film a 40-second video of your two students explaining:“What problem would you like to solve through science for the future of our society?”,
This event is free – flights, travel, accommodation and meals are covered by ANSTO.
For more details click here   Applications close late August.

b) July Lectures in Physics: The Moon, 6:30pm Fridays in July, University of Melbourne

  • 19th July, Shining a light on Solar System Geology, Dr Helen Brand
  • 26th July, The Physics of the Apollo Moon Mission in 1969: Do Astronauts obey Kepler’s Laws?

Venue: Basement Theatre B117, Glyn Davis Building.
For more details, click here. There is information about each lecture as well as a link to book for each lecture.

c) 19th  July, Space Law: It’s not Rocket Science, 6:30pm, Swinburne University
Lecturer is Dr Kim Ellis, Swinburne University.  This will be an informative lecture on how Australia is making a splash on the international space arena as the Australian Space Agency turns one. We will also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
Venue: EN Building, Lecture Theatre 101
Check here for details of map and to book.

d) 30th July, 50 Years of Apollo, 6:30pm, Monash University
Speaker: Prof John Lattanzio, Monash University
Abstract: July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.  I will present some of the interesting challenges, decisions and methods used to achieve this goal.  In addition to Apollo 11 I will cover the Apollo 1 fire, the Apollo 12 lightning strike and the near disastrous oxygen tank explosion on Apollo 13, as well as the decision structure at Mission Control in Houston. There are many fascinating, inspiring and humorous aspects that are not well known. I will also explain the 1201 and 1202 errors, and why Apollo 11 landed despite them.
Venue: Theatre S3, 16 Rainforest Walk, Monash University, Clayton

e) 27th August, Girls in STEM and the Future of Work, 5:00pm – 7:30pm, Engineers Australia, 600 Bourke St
“An exciting, interactive evening for girls in Years 9,10 & 11.  Come along to be inspired and learn all about your future STEM career options & the future of work! 
Refreshments served, door prizes, gift bags, interactive workshops & more!”
Cost: Free
Venue: Engineers Australia, Level 31, 600 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
To book: Click here. Please note demand is high for this event and they want as many students to attend as possible, as such they are limiting attendance to female secondary students and preferably only one accompanying parent.

e) 28th August: Girls in Physics Breakfast at Monash University

This is our fourth year of running Girls in Physics Breakfasts. The aims of the program are:

  • to encourage girls in Years 10 to 12 to appreciate the diversity of careers that studying physics enables,
  • to appreciate the satisfaction that comes from a challenging career in science, and
  • to be aware of the success that women can achieve in the physical sciences.

The one remaining Breakfast for this year is on 28th August at Monash University, Clayton campus, see details below.
At each breakfast, students share a table with two or three women who are either have a career in physics or engineering, or are at university as undergraduates or postgraduates.  At the table, discussion ensures about what the women do, what they like about it as well as their training, future prospects, etc.  As a student at one of  early breakfasts told her teacher, ‘I was talking to a guest at my table and her career sounded so amazing.  Then I realised that in 8 years that could be me.  I got so excited.

There is also a guest speaker at each breakfast who presents a talk on her area of expertise.  After the talk there are activities on Careers in STEM and Q & A panel with three of the guests.

The date, venue, speaker, topic and Trybooking link is:

  • 28th August, Clayton Speaker: Dr Helen Maynard-Casely, ANSTO. Topic: How neutrons can save the world. Closing date: 4:00pm, 19th August.  Trybookings.

Further details: For promotional flyer and more details on the talk, etc, go to our website.
Numbers:  There is an initial maximum of  6 students per school, to ensure that more schools that can participate. On 8th August, extra spots will be opened up to schools that have already booked.
Cost: $15 per student with teachers free, a discounted fee is available to schools with a low ICSEA rank.
See the specific Trybookings link for details.

The Guardian newspaper has just produced a 15 page booklet on Women in Engineering.  It is full of stories about different sectors, articles on current issues, as well as many profiles.

6.  Events for Teachers

a) ANSTO PD Day, Weds, 2nd October, Australian Synchrotron

ANSTO is offering a PD at the Australian Synchrotron  The program will look at a number of syllabus-focused educational resources to teach areas of the Year 9 Science curriculum and Year 12 Physics. You will also hear from prominent scientists and have a tour of the Australian Synchrotron.
Cost: $55, Lunch is not provided.
To book, click here.

7.   Physics from the Web
Items selected from the bulletin of the Institute of Physics (UK).
Each item below includes the introductory paragraphs and a web link to the rest of the article.

New device excels at making hydrogen using concentrated sunlight

The large-scale and renewable production of hydrogen could soon be possible thanks to a new photoelectrochemical device that is driven by concentrated sunlight. When scaled-up, the technology could revolutionize how hydrogen is produced and make the gas a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Sunlight and water are both in great abundance on Earth so using light to split water molecules to create hydrogen fuel has great potential for creating a clean and renewable energy source. Now mechanical engineers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), led bySophia Haussener, have created an electrochemical device that uses concentrated solar radiation to create hydrogen fuel from water with no undesirable byproducts.

Summer weather extremes linked to stalled Rossby waves in the jet stream

Early summer heatwaves in Western Europe and North America set new temperature records in 2018, while other regions of the northern hemisphere were hit with torrential rain and severe flooding. Now researchers in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands say that these events were linked by a pattern of stalled waves in the jet stream. They add that this wave pattern appears to have increased in frequency and persistence in recent years and may occur more frequently in the future due to climate change.

The northern jet stream is a river of fast-moving air that circles the northern hemisphere in the mid-latitudes. Travelling from east to west at an altitude of around 10 km, these winds drive large-scale weather systems around the globe.

Jet-stream winds generally travel at the same latitude, but they can shift into a wave-like pattern, known as Rossby waves, where they meander from north to south and back again. When this happens, warm air fills the peaks of the wave, while cold polar air drops into the troughs. Rossby waves normally continue to move from east to west – shifting high- and low-pressure weather systems with them. However, they can also stall – which can lead to heatwaves, droughts and floods as the regions of hot and cold air hover over the same regions for days, or even weeks.

Other sources: Rossby Waves and Extreme Weather (Youtube),  What is a Rossby Wave? , Rossby Waves and the Polar Vortex .

QB or not QB – that is the question for quantum physicists and philosophers
Philosophers can learn much from a row in the physics community, says Robert P Crease.  “It is a bad sign,” the Nobel-prize-winning theorist Steven Weinberg wrote recently, “that physicists who are most comfortable with quantum mechanics do not agree with one another about what it all means.”

Well, that’s Weinberg’s view. I don’t find those disagreements a bad sign – just a sign that philosophical issues are in play. Yes, quantum mechanics is full of puzzles. Is, for example, the wave function real or a book-keeping device? What does “reduction of the wave function” mean? And if the many-worlds idea is untestable, can it be true?

The meaning of quantum mechanics is made even more perplexing by several thought experiments that seem to reach impossible results. One is “Wigner’s friend”, in which an observer of a quantum measurement and an observer of that person are shown to make different statements about the quantum state being measured. Another is Schrödinger’s cat, in which quantum mechanics declares an unobserved feline to be half-dead, half-alive.


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