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Stawell leading the way in dark matter research

WORLD-LEADING RESEARCH: Minister for Education Dan Tehan with Stawell Mayor Kevin Erwin. MP Tehan announced three separate funds for Northern Grampians Shire, including $5-million for Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory. Picture: LOTTE REITER

WORLD-LEADING RESEARCH: Minister for Education Dan Tehan with Stawell Mayor Kevin Erwin. MP Tehan announced three separate funds for Northern Grampians Shire, including $5-million for Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory. Picture: LOTTE REITER

By LOTTE REITER
From an early age, humans have an unquenchable curiosity for the universe in which we live.
Starting from the moment we can talk, asking the question ‘why?’ is an integral part of human consciousness.
While we are successful at finding answers to many questions, it is life’s big mysteries that often prove elusive.
Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, SUPL, researchers hope to solve at least one big mystery by investigating the existence of dark matter after confirmation of $5-million in backing from the Federal Government.
The Australian research facility lies one kilometre underground in a disused section of a Stawell goldmine, and Australian astronomer and Swinburne University of Technology Professor Jeremy Mould said funding would be crucial in proving the existence of dark matter – one of the biggest puzzles in astronomy and physics today.
“We know we need unidentified particles to hold the universe together, but we have not known for a greater 50 years what they actually are,” he said.
“They make up a quarter of the universe so this is not a trivial thing. But physicists haven’t been able to fit it into their all-encompassing model of the universe yet, so this is huge.
“It is the first national research facility in physical sciences in a regional area of Australia since 1988, and it is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere. We are really excited about it.”
Member for Wannon Dan Tehan made the government announcement in Stawell last week.
Mr Tehan said SUPL was an investment in regional Australia and would help create jobs and grow Australia’s higher education and research capacity.
“This project will create jobs during the construction and fit-out stage as well as full-time roles operating the facility. It will also attract researchers from around the world and grow Australia’s reputation as a world-class research destination,” he said.
Prof Mould echoed the benefits of SUPL and said experiments, expected to begin early 2020, would bring together an international team and provide educational opportunities for regional students.
“There are about a dozen of us in the Australian side of the research, and there are an equal number in Italy and the United States,” he said.
“We have been working with schools – we have been talking to Stawell Secondary College since planning started and there is interest in Ararat as well.
“There has been a great increase in physics involvement from the education sector in the past few years.”
The future of the project is unknown and Prof Mould confirmed it would be a while before we will have a better understanding of our universe.
“The timetable calls for the laboratory to be constructed this year,” he said.
“The dark matter experiment is under construction already in Melbourne and will be taken down to the lab around May next year, but then we will have to operate it for three years until we can get a result.
“Every advance in physics has had significant benefits in ways that are very hard to predict, and although we can’t yet say what the application of this experiment will be, the additional knowledge will be tremendous.”

The entire April 10, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

Short URL: http://www.theweeklyadvertiser.com.au/?p=76267

Posted on Apr 10 2019

Posted by on Apr 10 2019. Filed under Environment, FEATURED, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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