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The crackle of the radio, a message in the evening sky

23 February, 2007

710. Mr S.R. HILL to the Minister for Science and Innovation:

Can the minister inform the house of the progress of Australia’s bid to host the square-kilometre array, the biggest radio telescope ever built, and its importance in the mid-west?

Mr F.M. LOGAN replied:

I thank the member for Geraldton for the question. I put on the record my thanks to the member for Geraldton for the role he plays as the chair of the coordinating committee for the Mileura station radio astronomy park and for all the effort he puts into coordinating the number of departments and scientists involved in that project. I thank him very much.

Although all eyes will be on the Australian Football League grand final in Melbourne on Saturday, another one looms on the horizon, but it is a slightly different one. In under six hours we will learn whether the world’s astronomy community has short-listed Australia to host the square-kilometre array, the world’s largest radio telescope. […] Believe it or not, the world in which we live – I can see it in the wireless network in this place – is bombarded with radio frequencies from wireless networks, radio telephones, radios, televisions, cars and trucks. The whole world is bombarded with various radio frequencies, and to listen in to deep space, and to research the big bang theory and how the universe was created, a radio telescope is required that is not interfered with by radio frequencies.

Mr T. Buswell: Will it pick up the black hole between your ears?

Mr F.M. LOGAN: It is funny that the member for Vasse should say that, because I was just about to say exactly the same thing. I even have it written in my notes. The member beat me to it; well done! We have to get up early to catch him!

On a serious note, for the development of the science industry in Western Australia and for the world to take Western Australia and, more importantly, Australia seriously in the world of science, this project is phenomenal. […] All the information will be processed by a computer that is so big that it has not even been invented yet! It is enormous.

Several members interjected.

Mr F.M. LOGAN: I have been told – not that I am aware of this level of computing power – that it is about 13 teraflops, which is pretty big – apparently. The possibility is that Geraldton could be the home of this supercomputer. It would put Western Australia on the map, not only in industrial development but also in the science industry, the information and communications technology industry and the computer industry. In particular, it will put Geraldton on the map. As we watch those stars in Melbourne over the weekend, Treasurer – Judd, Cousins and the rest of them – we should remember that we could be looking at other stars in deep space in a few years and we could find out the meaning of life and whether that black hole in the head of the member for Vasse will be resolved.

The SPEAKER: I am not sure whether the word “teraflops” is unparliamentary, but I will check and get back to the minister!

Subject: Square-Kilometre Array – Progress of Bid [Legislative Assembly]

Date: 28 September 2006

Hansard reference: pp. 6931c – 6932a [online (pdf)]

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