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Gas wells are popping up across the country. AAP

Explainer: coal seam gas, shale gas and fracking in Australia

Debate is intensifying over the extraction of coal seam gas, particularly in NSW and Queensland. Farmers are protesting over safety concerns and threats to the country’s food security. The Greens and the…
Trans fats are more harmful to your health than regular fats and should be avoided. Flickr/Half alive

Explainer: what are trans fats?

Trans fats – they’re in our chips, bakery goods, popcorn and cakes. We know we should avoid them, but what exactly are they, and why are they so bad for us? First, let’s take a step back and look at how…
Standard & Poor’s could still downgrade the US credit rating, despite the debt ceiling deal. AAP

Explainer: the role of credit ratings agencies

Washington lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have passed an agreement hammered out between Republican and Democrat leaders designed to avert a US debt default. The move is a further step towards…
Alan Turing, through pure mathematics, laid the foundations for the modern computer. Leo Reynolds

Explainer: the point of pure mathematics

What is pure mathematics? What do pure mathematicians do? Why is pure mathematics important? These are questions I’m often confronted with when people discover I do pure mathematics. I always manage to…
A growing number of academic institutions are building free online databases of their scholarly output. But publication in a big name academic journal still holds cachet for most academics. Flickr/mandiberg

Explainer: Open access vs traditional academic journal publishers

As the cost of accessing academic journal articles increases, a growing number of academic institutions are building publicly accessible databases of scholarly work. But how much of a threat to the traditional…
Uncertainty about the US economy is driving investors back to the safe-haven metal. AAP

Explainer: Why gold is still precious for investors

The price of gold reached a record high of $US1607.01 an ounce on Tuesday as investors turn to the precious metal amid uncertain global economic conditions. University of Western Australian Professor of…
The Antarctic Treaty protects the continent from competing interests. AAP

Explainer: Keeping conflict on ice with the Antarctic Treaty

This year marks the 50th year of the Antarctic Treaty, a visionary document that for the first time set out a vision for an entire continent based on peace, science and co-operation. So how does it hold…
Sadly, survival of the fittest does not mean anyone will survive. Kaptain Kobold

Explainer: Theory of evolution

The theory of evolution encompasses the well established scientific view that organic life on our planet has changed over long periods of time and continues to change by a process known as natural selection…
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…

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