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Psammomys obesus or the Israeli sand rat provides an insight into how the thrifty gene hypothesis may work. Tino Strauss

Explainer: Diabetes and obesity – the biggest epidemic in human history

In the last few decades, the number of people with diabetes has more than doubled globally, making the combination of type 2 diabetes and obesity (known as diabesity) the largest epidemic the world has…
Workers will see a percentage increase in their pay packet from today. AAP/Greg Wood

Explainer: What the new minimum wage really means for workers

Fair Work Australia’s annual wage determination takes effect today. Importantly, we’re set to see award wages rise not by a single dollar sum, as in the past, but by 3.4%. This goes someway to addressing…
An emissions trading scheme and a carbon tax are not the same thing. AAP

Explainer: The difference between a carbon tax and an ETS

Since July 2012, Australia has had in place its carbon pricing scheme. It is commonly referred to as a “carbon tax”, but also as an “Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) with a fixed price”. And the plan is…
Queensland authorities on Wedneday confirmed that a horse had died of Hendra virus on a farm south of Brisbane. The virus, which can spread from horses to humans, has killed four of the seven people ever infected. AAP

Explainer: Why is Hendra virus so dangerous?

Queensland authorities have confirmed a horse on a farm south of Brisbane has died of Hendra virus, which can spread from…
AAP joint.

Explainer: What is synthetic cannabis or Kronic?

Synthetic cannabis, known commercially as Kronic, K2, Kaos or Spice, was designed to circumvent drug laws and give users a “legal high”. But Western Australia banned the product earlier this month and…
A QANTAS A380 Airbus, one of the last international flights to depart Sydney International Airport shortly before a 3pm suspension of flights in Sydney on Tuesday. AAP

Explainer: Why can’t planes fly through volcanic ash?

A volcanic ash cloud produced by Chile’s Puyehue volcanic eruption has circumnavigated the globe and floated over Australia twice, disrupting flights and leaving over 120,000 passengers stranded. The Conversation…
Without quantum mechanics, we would not have the transistor. IvyMike/Flickr

Explainer: Quantum physics

This might surprise you, but there may be literally thousands, or even tens of thousands, of devices and components surrounding you right now that work because of our understanding of quantum physics…
We’ve got the time, if you’ve got the theory. h.koppdelaney/Flickr

Explainer: the fifth dimension

By now we’re used to the idea that the world has four dimensions: three spatial and one temporal. But what if there were a fifth dimension – what would that dimension look like, and how would it relate…
As yet we can only guess what the Higgs boson might look like. DESY Zeuthen

Explainer: the Higgs boson particle

Theoretical physics is full of mysteries and unknowns. In the case of some particles, we can predict their existence even if we can’t find them. Such is the status of the Higgs boson. And yet detecting…
Manufacturers may be forced to accept profit margins will continue to narrow.

Explainer: What a strong Australian dollar actually means

The Australian dollar has been striking new post-float highs against the US dollar in recent weeks, and according to a number of prominent market economists could reach US$1.10 before the end of this year…
Nanoparticles, as used in sunscreen, are readily absorbed by the body. Tony Bartlett/AAP

Explainer: Nanotechnology and you

For the public, the jury is still out on nanotechnology – the media simultaneously extols its promise and warns of the potential calamity facing humanity. But what is it? How does it work? Is it dangerous…
Viewed from afar, the Milky Way might appear similar to the galaxy known as NGC 7331. R. Jay GaBany/NASA

Explainer: a beginner’s guide to the galaxy

Where are we within our galaxy? How did our galaxy form? How did it evolve over the aeons? Astronomers have been asking these questions for the past century, and have recently begun discerning the answers…
Is the “Z-prime” lurking within a “jungle” of particles at the LHC? Argonne National Laboratory

Explainer: the Z’ (hypothetical) particle

There’s nothing like an unexpected result to get physicists excited. So in 2008, when some strange behaviour was detected from a rarely-produced particle known as the “top quark”, there was much interest…
Could neutrinos be responsible for the shape of the universe? The Super-Kamiokande Neutrino Detector, Japan

Explainer: the elusive neutrino

Of all the known particles in our universe, neutrinos are perhaps the most elusive; their origins are mysterious, their purpose unknown and they are notoriously difficult to detect. You’ll already know…
The NBN could give all Australians access to online services. iStockphoto

Explainer: the National Broadband Network (NBN)

The big picture Australia’s plan for a National Broadband Network (NBN) represents one of the largest infrastructure projects in the world at present. The estimated $43 billion price tag has stirred up…

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