Sheep's shins and giant sponges

Hair for hearing

It may be possible to repair deafness with a biological treatment which would be more effective than electronic "cochlear implants", said Dr Carole Hackney of Keele University. Scientists expect to be able to stimulate the regrowth of the hair cells in the ear, whose destruction is the main cause of deafness. Recent research has shown that this can occur spontaneously in animals in certain circumstances.

Deep sea dive

The biggest mass extinction of all time, 250 million years ago, was associated with rapid sea-level rise and a dramatic drop in oxygen levels on the seabed, geologists at the University of Birmingham have concluded after examining rocks in Italy, Pakistan and China. The great die-off at the end of the Permian Era is thought to have killed off more than three-quarters of all plant and animal species then living on the planet. The Birmingham scientists told the BA that their findings concerning the catastrophe did not rule out the possibility that massive volcanic eruptions were the prime cause.

They came at night

Claims of alien abductions may have arisen from people who were dreaming while half-asleep, according to Dr Susan Blackmore of the University of the West of England. The effect of "sleep paralysis" - in which one half- wake from a dream without being able to move - can confuse people, and lead them to claim they have been taken away by aliens and held captive. But they then remember their nonsense dreams, rather than forgetting them, as usually happens on waking up.

Tubular bones

Prehistoric humans appear to have played instruments made from goose wings and sheep's shinbones, in which notes could be "bent" like a jazz player's. The instruments date back as far as 20,000 BC, according to Dr Graeme Lawson of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge.

Family trouble

Sibling rivalry is the most common form of violence within families, according to Dr Kevin Browne of the University of Birmingham. Millions of people are going into hospital, he said, but the problem is "totally ignored".

The big squeeze

Deep-water sponges (see picture) are like the rainforests - they contain a huge range of potentially useful chemicals and drugs which have only just begun to be tapped, but their usefulness means they are threatened by human encroachment. A sponge called discodermia, which lives 1,000ft below the ocean surface, produces a chemical which is more effective than other known drugs against breast cancer. But, said Michelle Kelly-Borges of the Natural History Museum, "The major problem with doing trials of these products is that you can't get enough material without harvesting huge amounts of the sponges." It can take up to 10 years for a sponge to grow to the size of a fist, and then it would only produce a few millionths of a gram of the chemical, she said.

Listen with mother

Babies in the womb can distinguish between different sorts of music - and they seem to prefer the theme from Neighbours over Strauss's Blue Danube. "Their movements are certainly rhythmic," said Professor Peter Hepper, of Queen's University, Belfast. The babies are probably reacting to something about the bass sounds of the music, as the treble notes would be absorbed by the mother's skin and the fluid in the womb. The babies could also recognise the music after they were born, and became quiet when it was played to them. "Unfortunately for mothers, this pacifying effect only lasts once or twice," said Professor Hepper.

Human voices

Schizophrenia, first described 100 years ago, is a genetically-linked disorder which is unique to humans and intrinsically linked to our development of language, argued Timothy Crow of Oxford University. "There is an interesting uniformity of symptoms and it seems to occur in all societies at the same rate," he said. "The conclusion is that it's something to do with what distinguishes us as a species - which is language." This would fit the common schizophrenic's complaint of hearing voices, he suggested. "But it is also interesting because it tells us something about how language is organised."

Coma brainwave

Coma patients may one day be able to communicate with the outside world through the monitoring of their brain waves, according to a team led by Dr Stephen Roberts from Imperial College. His team has developed neural networks capable of analysing the mix of electrical signals from a person's brain, and comparing them against normal brain functions. This would mean that people whose brains were still functioning, and who could hear what was happening around them would be able to react to outside stimuli, and distinguished from brain-dead patients.

Delayed reaction

Many well-known volcanoes are overdue for a cataclysmic eruption, including Mount Etna and Vesuvius in Italy. Professor Bill McGuire of University College London said that, however Vesuvius erupts, "the reactivation will require the evacuation of 800,000 people." He said that we should monitor volcanoes more closely; presently only one in five is.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial