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2012 Eureka Prizes announced

By Pat, 6 September 2012 News

Rip currents at a beach

Dr Rob Brander’s work to educate the public on identifying rip currents earned him a 2012 Eureka Prize.
Image: Rob Brander

What do the electromagnetic force, rip currents, humpback whales and lizards have in common? They are just some of the subjects of work that won Eureka Prizes this year.

The Eureka Prizes were established over 20 years ago to recognise outstanding achievements in Australian scientific research, science communication and school science. The prizes are presented annually by the Australian Museum, and cover 19 different categories.

The winners of the prizes come from the full range of scientific disciplines. The prize for Scientific Research went to a team of physicists who showed that the electromagnetic force (which is associated with electricity, magnetism and light) varies in strength as you move across the Universe. The laws of physics are assumed to be constant across the Universe. If the physicists’ results are accurate, it suggests that the laws of physics aren’t constant, which could have implications for all of science.

The Eureka Prizes don’t just deal with the grand questions of the cosmos. Dr Rob Brander received an award for his work with something much closer to many Australians’ hearts: the beach. Rob used his research on rip currents to start the Science of the Surf initiative to better educate the public about the dangers of this potentially lethal phenomenon. For his work, Rob received a Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research.

It’s not just scientists who win Eureka Prizes. Photographer Jason Edwards won the science photography prize for his picture of two humpback whales. Jason’s picture wasn’t just visually striking; it was also scientifically significant as it was the first time two of these gentle giants had been photographed mating.

School students Brandon Gifford and Iggy Fox also won Eureka Prizes, in the Sleek Geeks video competition. Brandon, who won the Secondary School prize, made his video about the properties of lizard skins that allow them to survive in often hostile environments. Iggy won the Primary School prize for his video about his experiment to grow extra-large eggs from his hens.

The Eureka Prizes are important for recognising the work of Australian scientists, as well as science communicators and teachers. They are a useful way of highlighting some of the greatest achievements made in Australia science in a way that that is interesting to the public. Who knows, maybe one day you will be the one crying ‘Eureka!’

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