Science: Theoretically ... Dinosaur-speak/ Mouse urine/ Mussel power/ Mir walks again

Want to hear a "pretty accurate" dinosaur? The cry of one that has been dead for 70 million years has been reverberating around the globe on the World Wide Web - and caused its museum's Web site to crash. Tom Williamson, a paleontologist, and Carl Diegert, a computer scientist, used X-ray scans of the skull of a parasaurolophus to recreate the structure of air chambers inside the 4ft crest rising from the back of its skull. From that, they worked towards the sounds it could have made - particularly a "low-pitched, trombone wail that listeners feel as much as hear", as they say.

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History put the sound on its Web site - http://www.nmmnh-abq. mus.nm.us/nmmnh/nmmnh.html - early last month. The following weekend, the site was so overloaded, with four times more visitors than usual, that it crashed four times.

A team in New Zealand is trying to synthesise a protein produced by mussels, in the hope that it can be used to close human wounds without stitches. It's the same protein that the shellfish use as their natural glue to stick them on to rocks and survive the battering of waves, and is secreted by a gland in the "foot". The key question is whether the body rejects the protein: if not, then it could make stitches redundant.

The amino acid components of the protein were first identified in 1985, but mis-sequenced - a mistake not realised until 1994. The key is dihydroxyproline, one of the rarest amino acids and not available commercially. Manufacturing that will be the team's biggest task; then they will try testing it on humans.

Things are back to normal on Mir: the computer keeps breaking down. The crew of two Russians and one American spent Sunday fixing a problem with the main computer which had shut down on Friday, and caused the failure of the gyroscope system that keeps Mir ideally oriented to catch the sun's rays to generate power.

With that done, yesterday was occupied with checking spacesuits before two spacewalks this week. The first, planned for Thursday, will try to install a new airtight rubber seal on the exit hatch of Mir's Kvant-2 module, which failed to close properly after their spacewalk last November. The resulting partial loss of pressure has affected only Kvant's docking chamber. The other spacewalk, planned for 14 January, is to retrieve American scientific equipment on the outside of the station.

Drinking mouse urine doesn't sound pleasant, but it could turn out to be good for you - if you choose the right mouse. Specifically, those genetically engineered to produce human proteins in their urine, such as the ones produced by a team at the US Department of Agriculture and the New York University Medical School.

We already have transgenic sheep that produce useful human proteins in their milk, but the advantage of animals which generate useful chemicals in their urine is that both males and females could secrete it virtually from birth.

The work is reported in the January issue of Nature Biotechnology; the mice were given a gene to produce human growth hormone. If the idea were to be used commercially, scientists would plant the gene for a particular protein into bigger animals, such as cattle.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Voices
The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food