4 mins read 22 Mar 2022

From Perth to Brisbane – The Dark Matter road trip

Scientists from The ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics will embark on a road trip from Brisbane to Perth to take the excitement of the search for dark matter to rural centres as part of National Science Week.

The 2021 Quantum and Dark Matter Road Trip team from University of Western Australia visited 7 schools and delivered 3 public events over five days. This year it will grow to be three weeks long, covering four states. Credit: ARC/Twitter

Leading scientists in Quantum physics and Dark Matter research are getting ready to hit the road for National Science Week this August. The ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics (CDM) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems have joined forces to take particle physics and quantum physics to regional and rural areas as part of National Science Week.

The road trip was among 35 projects that received support in the $500,000 National Science Week grand round announced by Minister for Science and Technology, Melissa Price earlier this month.

The National Quantum Road Trip will visit community hubs along a route from Brisbane to Perth over three weeks, visiting students and teachers in schools as well as outreach activities for the public including the occasional trivia night.

It follows on from the success of last year’s road trip which saw a smaller University of Western Australia team visit seven schools and delivered three public events over five days in the Southwest of Western Australia.

Centre researcher Ben McAllister, from Swinburne Institute of Technology and the University of Western Australia, said the response to the event had been extremely positive.

“Last year’s road trip was an awesome experience, getting out into regional and rural communities to spread the excitement and wonder of science was so rewarding. I’m looking forward to reaching more regional and rural Australians this year.”

CDM Education and Outreach Coordinator Jackie Bondell said the National Quantum Road Trip was “an interactive travelling science and art show”.

“Quantum technology and the nature of dark matter are key Australian research priorities and are vital to unravelling the greatest mysteries of the universe,” Ms. Bondell said.

“During the trip, which spans National Science Week, scientists from two ARC Centres of Excellence will engage and enlighten the public on the importance of the fundamental scientific research taking place in their own backyards.

“The goal of the program is to visit regional communities to engage audiences of all ages with the cutting-edge science happening here in Australia. Our scientists will provide hands-on activities and give talks in hopes of engaging visitors in conversations about the excitement and the impact of science.”

The Road trip will feature a stop at Stawell, the home of the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, which will be the first underground laboratory of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Located in a working gold mine in Stawell, Victoria and funded by both state and federal governments, a team of scientists and engineers are building an underground laboratory in the search to discover the elusive nature of dark matter, one kilometre underground.

The Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory will put on an interactive augmented-reality tour that will show virtual visitors around the underground facility.

National Science Week 2022

Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said National Science Week was a great way to encourage interest and participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“National Science Week is a fantastic and fun opportunity to recognise the wonderful work of our scientists and hopefully inspire our next generation of big-thinkers,” Minister Price said.

“Science plays a huge part in our daily life, even if we don’t always realise.

“The great events and activities in National Science Week are not only fun and interactive, but they can show us just how much we use science in our everyday life.

“Last year, we saw more than one million Aussies participating in events across every state and territory, and we’re expecting that this year we’re going to see even more people getting out and joining in on the fun.”

Joining the National Quantum Roadshow as a grant recipient is Sydney’s Macquarie University with their own road trip - Pocket Astronomy in Pocket-Sized Towns. Over four days, students and university staff will visit four rural towns to deliver planetarium shows, science outreach talks and evening telescope viewings. The main points of discussion will be about light pollution, preserving the night sky, and Warrumbungle National Park – Australia’s first ‘Dark Sky Park’.

National Science Week 2022 will run from 13-21 August.  

Learn more about National Science Week 2022