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Online Feature

Holy grilled cheese sandwich! What is pareidolia?

By Kevin Brooks

A few quirks of neural processing explain why religious devotees can see the face of the Virgin Mary in a slice of toast.

How much would you pay for a grilled cheese sandwich?
$6? Maybe $7, if it was deliciously fresh and you were really hungry?

In 2004, Diane Duyser from Florida, USA sold a ten-year-old grilled cheese sandwich for US$28,000. And the reason for the 4,000-fold inflation?

Budget defers renewable energy development when it's needed most

By Dylan McConnell

The decision to link the Australia’s carbon price to the European Union emissions trading scheme has wiped A$6 billion from the federal budget.

Treasurer Wayne Swan has dealt with that loss of revenue by reducing industry assistance to deal with the carbon price – a reasonable move – but he has also deferred funding for important renewable energy development.

On academic efficiency and the 2013 federal budget

By Matthew Bailes

One of the casualties of the 2013 federal budget is the university sector.

As you may have noticed, the 2013 federal budget is out and, despite his best efforts, Euromoney’s “2011 Finance Minister of the Year” Wayne Swan has missed his earlier predicted budget surplus by almost A$20 billion.

New coatings extend life and safety of hip implants

By Dick Meredith, London Press Service

New coatings have been developed for hip replacements to protect against post-operative infection and provide a barrier to minimise metal ion release into the body.

There has been concern about 'metal-on-metal' hip replacements – where a metal ball fits into a metal cup implanted into the pelvis – with problems reportedly occurring when friction between the ball and cup causes tiny metal filings to break off. These filings can seep into the bloodstream and cause inflammation, which can destroy muscle and bone.

The first metal-on-metal devices were introduced in the 1990s, when they were seen as offering better mobility than other materials, but most were withdrawn from the market in 2010.

Could Li-Fi spark a communications revolution like Wi-Fi?

By Dick Meredith

Multi-tasking micro-lights now being developed could initiate an amazing transformation for the future of communications by using light to carry information over the internet.

Tiny light-emitting diode (LED) lights could deliver Wi-Fi-like internet communications, while simultaneously displaying information and providing illumination for homes, offices and many other locations.

Over the next four years, a consortium of universities in the United Kingdom will be developing this innovative technology to help unleash the full potential of “Li-Fi” - the transmission of internet communications using visible light rather than the radio waves and microwaves currently in use.

Is the end to diabetic injections in sight?

By Richard Maino

Nasal gel reduces blood glucose levels.

Globally, it is estimated that diabetes is expected to affect as many as 440 million people by 2030.

But sufferers may never need to take insulin injections again - because innovative scientists working in the United Kingdom have developed a once-a-day nasal gel.

Quantum computing taps nucleus of single atom

A team of Australian engineers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has demonstrated a quantum bit based on the nucleus of a single atom in silicon, promising dramatic improvements for data processing in ultra-powerful quantum computers of the future.

Quantum bits, or qubits, are the building blocks of quantum computers, which will offer enormous advantages for searching expansive databases, cracking modern encryption, and modelling atomic-scale systems such as biological molecules and drugs. When coupled together these qubits will give rise to exponential increases in computing speeds.

The world-first result, published in Nature, brings these machines one-step closer, describing how information was stored and retrieved using the magnetic spin of a nucleus.

Colour-changing dragons to reveal their secrets

By Tim Thwaites

A study of why animals change colour could enable scientists to develop bandages that change colour in response to slight changes in the temperature of the wound.

Devi Stuart-Fox is attracted to show-offs. “I’m just really fascinated by animals with fabulous colours and ornaments.” And ever since she was a teenager living in a bushland setting in an outer Brisbane suburb, she has also been delighted by lizards. She used to keep them as pets.

New evidence lifts the stakes on the meat vs fish debate

By Hugh Barrett

Two recent papers have shed more light on the benefits of fish oils and the reasons why red meat might be bad for you.

We have all been told that eating fish is good for you and equally, that eating red meat is bad. But is this true? And if so, why? This has been the subject of much research over the past 60 years. Two recent papers, one about the benefits of fish oils and the other about the reasons why red meat might be bad for you, have helped shed more light on the matter.

Don't bury the benefits of research to improve the health system

By Stephen Leeder

The McKeon review sets out a ten-year strategy to better integrate health and medical research into the public health system.