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A scene of devastation after the Taliban attack in Peshawar. EPA/Bilawal Arbab

Explainer: who are the Pakistani Taliban?

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on a school in Peshawar that killed more than 130 children. The militants planned the massacre to take revenge on the Pakistan army. They murdered…
Psoriasis produces angry red scaly plaques on the elbows, knees and elsewhere. Mysi Ann/Flickr

Explainer: what is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease of the skin that affects around 2% of the Australian population. That’s enough people to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground each of the five days of Boxing day test…
Mass spectrometry will identify those explosive molecules. Marcia Cirillo/Flickr

The science of airport bomb detection: mass spectrometry

You’ve probably had your hand luggage swabbed after walking through the metal detector at the airport. Whatever molecules were picked up by the swab have been separated using gas chromatography. So how…
RV Investigator at sea – It will be formally commissioned in Hobart today. CSIRO

Explainer: the RV Investigator’s role in marine science

We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about our deepest oceans, and only 12% of the ocean floor within Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone has so far been mapped. The reason for this is…
Torture victims will soon be lining up to sue the US. What are their chances? EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Explainer: can people tortured by the CIA now sue the US?

The US Senate’s report on the torture carried out by the CIA makes shocking reading. Questions will be asked about whether individual victims can sue for compensation for losses suffered, and where they…
You have gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to thank for keeping you safe from explosives in air travel. Dustin Ground/Flickr

The science of airport bomb detection: chromatography

As the holidays draw near, many of us will hop on a plane to visit friends and family – or just get away from it all. Some will be subjected to a swab at the airport to test clothes and baggage for explosives…
If you’re at high risk of skin cancer, check your skin regularly. Roman Königshofer/Flickr

Spot the difference: harmless mole or potential skin cancer?

The earlier you find a cancerous mole, the easier the treatment and the better the outcomes. But it’s not easy distinguishing between harmless, benign moles and those that warrant further attention. In…
People who experience compassion fatigue are taking on the issues they witness without an appropriate outlet. Mr.Nikon/Shutterstock

Compassion fatigue: the cost some workers pay for caring

Health and social workers often choose their profession because they want to help people. But seeing trauma and suffering on a regular basis can have a deep impact on these workers. “Compassion fatigue…
Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating affects around 3% of the population. Jayel Aheram

Explainer: why do I sweat so much and how can I stop it?

Everybody sweats, some more than others. It’s a physiological reaction to heat and the body’s mechanism to regulate core temperate. Individual sweat rates vary and are influenced by factors such as ambient…
What is a Small Private Online Course? And how is it different to a MOOC? Shutterstock

Explainer: what is a Small Private Online Course?

If you have studied an online course at a university over the past couple of decades, you’ve probably already experienced a SPOC, or Small Private Online Course. SPOC is a new term for an old concept…
Breakdown was an interactive audiovisual dance performance at Ears Eyes and Feet in May this year, Austin Texas. Rodrigo Carvalho, Yago de Quay, Sunny Shen

Explainer: interactive composition

Computers have shaken up how we create and listen to music, and there is more radical transformation to come. The potential for digital music to be interactive is leading to new ways to experience and…
Firing harpoons in space. ESA/ATG medialab

Explainer: why Rosetta comet mission is such a big deal

The first attempted landing on the surface of a comet is a huge landmark in the history of space exploration that will not only uncover further details about comets but could unlock further clues about…
Dr Andrew Stephenson and Dr Anthony Jacko examine the longest running laboratory experiment in the world.

Explainer: the pitch drop experiment

Something strange is happening within the world-famous pitch drop experiment with the latest drop forming much faster than the last couple of drops. There have been nine drops so far and all attention…
In the realm of pop culture, ‘killer clowns’ have really proliferated and fostered coulrophobia – the fear of clowns. Mark Crossfield

Are clowns scary? Ha ha aaaargh

When Australian singer and TV personality Mark Holden appeared as a clown recently on Channel 7’s Dancing with the Stars, his supposedly “bizarre” behaviour sparked furious debate and complaints to the…
The amount of sun exposure and associated vitamin D production is believed to underlie the geographical gradient in multiple sclerosis prevalance. Thomas Abbs/Flickr

Explainer: multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease affecting almost 25,000 Australians and more than 2.4 million people worldwide. It’s one of the leading causes of disability in young adults. Typically, the…
In the early 20th century, cubism seemed difficult and wild, and it was a favourite target of conservatives. Juan Gris, Fantômas, 1915, National Gallery of Art. Wikimedia Commons

Explainer: cubism

There’s a problem with the history of western art: we face it from the wrong side of decades of discursive dismantling. The conventional “story” of early 20th-century modernism, in which an advanced guard…
Eclipse at sunrise over Richmond, Virginia, USA in November 2013. Sky Noir (Bill Dickinson)/Flickr

Explainer: what is a solar eclipse?

Each month, at the time of new moon, the sun and moon are together in the daytime sky. Most of the time the moon passes by unnoticed. But at least twice a year, somewhere on Earth will see the moon pass…
For around three million Australians, spring is rendered utterly miserable by allergic rhinitis or hay fever. Adam Moralee/Flickr

Hay fever misery prediction: some to get off lightly, others to suffer

For many, spring is the most agreeable time of year. But for one in six people (around three million Australians), this balmiest of seasons is rendered utterly miserable by allergic rhinitis or hay fever…
Just before totality on a total lunar eclipse. Flickr/John Johnson

Explainer: what is a lunar eclipse?

At least twice a year, Earth comes between the sun and the moon. The result is a lunar eclipse, where we see the splendid sight of Earth’s shadow falling across the moon. Lunar eclipses are wonderful to…
Scoliosis is a sideways curve that can’t be fixed by simply sitting up straighter. nils gore/Flickr

Explainer: everything you need to know about scoliosis

Scoliosis can affect children of all ages and can have particularly severe effects when it develops early or in association with another medical condition. If the condition progresses and becomes severe…

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