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Miss Baker's Biology Class Wiki
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9th Honors Biology
Science Online '09
Hi, im Amy.
My blog project:
Fungi: A New Revolution in Violin Making
A few months ago, an important discovery was made in the world of violin making. A test was done to see whether a violin like the Stradivarius’s could be created. Amazingly, it was, with the help of Francis Schwarze of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research and a Swiss violin maker, Michael Rhonheimer. The test was to see if fungi treated wood could create similar wood that was used when Stradivarious created his violins. This article was published in
During Stradivarious’s time, he used wood with a low density, which was abundant in the cold weather between 1645 and 1715. The reason that scientists chose fungi in this experiment was because fungi break down rotting wood, and in doing this, they change the cell structure of the wood, which creates a lower density in the wood. This structure change makes a lighter wood that is similar to the wood
used to create his violins.
Here is a link to a video that shows how the weather affects wood, and about the history of the stradivarious violins:
Xylaria longipes "Dead Man's Fingers"
This test used five violins. Four would be made from the same type of wood and one would be treated for six months, one for nine months, and the other two were untreated. The other violin would be a Stradivarius. The violins were treated with two different types of fungi. One was Physisporinus vitreus,
which was on the spruce top half of the instrument and they other was Xylaria longipes (Dead Man’s Fingers), which was for the sycamore bottom half of the instrument. They tested these instruments by having a British violinist, Mathew Trusler, play the four instruments in front of an audience of 180 people at the Osnabrücker Baumpflegetagen conference in Germany, which focused on forestry. The instruments were played behind a curtain and the audience judged there tone. 90 out of the 180 people though that the violin treated for nine months had the best tone quality and 113 of the people though that it was the Stradivarius that was being played. The Stradivarius came in second with 39 people.
This test will help create new violins, which can have high quality and be sold for around $25,000 instead of over two million. Also, more musicians will be able to afford quality instruments, which will increase the number of classical musicians. The only problem concerning this test is that violin tone quality is a subjective matter. To one person, a violin might sound dull and have no timbre, but to another person it might sound clear and have a vibrant tone. The average person can tell the difference between a $50 violin and a $1,000,000, but this test could have had different results if done with a different group of people. This test might have been more accurate if professional musicians or violin makers were used because they have trained ears that can pick out quality sounds better than the average person.
To get more information on the fungi used in this experiment, I contacted the microbiologist Moselio Schaechter. His blog,
Small Things Considered: The Microbe Blog
, had a
about the Stradivarius violin test, so I asked him the following questions:
1. Do you know how and or why the process of this decaying of the wood by the fungi takes place?
2. Do you know if this is just these certain types of fungi or are there others that can create these instruments?
Here is an excerpt from Moselio Schaechter's response to my email:
Fungi are the “Great Recyclers.” They can digest almost anything (short of some man-made plastics), including wood. They are the reason why old trees become dust (in time). If it weren’t for the fungi, you couldn’t walk into a forest without a chain-saw. In fact, life would eventually come to a halt because so much carbon would be retained in old trees and other plants without being recycled into carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide has a bad name now because of global warming, but some of it is essential for photosynthesis, that is, for life on Earth. So, fungi are essential for life on this planet.
It’s not surprising that the scientists who worked on the violins chose fungi to make the wood thinner. No other living organisms would have worked. The way fungi decompose wood is by making enzymes which they secrete into their environment. Some of these enzymes have the ability to chew (break down) constituents of the cell walls that make wood solid. These walls are stiff because they contain a complicated chemical polymer called lignin. The enzyme that works on it is called
Some fungi are better at decomposing certain woods than others. This is why the scientists chose one fungus for the top of the violin, which is made of spruce, and another one for the bottom, which is made of sycamore. This way, they gave themselves the best chance of getting the desired thinness in the wood.
A Stradivarious Violin
A few questions for the reader:
How could different types of fungi make wood with different qualities?
Can fungi be used to improve the wood quality for uses other than violins and or instruments?
Are there any other factors that contribute to the lowering of wood density?
This is really good. The pictures and websites that are hyperliked are reliable and credible. I was especially interested by the part about people and whether they can tell if it's and expensive violin or if it is a cheap one. Maybe you can elaborate on that. For example you can say what kind of people can tell the instruments apart (musicians, string players, average people, etc,)
How Will I Meet This Expectation?
How Did I Meet This Expectation?
Demonstrate ability to evaluate sources of biology information on the internet
I will give constructive criticism to my class mates. If a website seems unreliable, I will tell them why and give them advice on where else to look for information.
I approved and disapproved some of my classmate's credible sources sites and gave them information on why they were credible or not. The class mate's sites that I gave constructive
to are Jack, Sam, Jesse, Michael S, Geoffrey, Justin, and Carl.
I gave Sam constructive critisism on her rough draft of her blog post, which helped her improve her project and help her earn a better grade.
I read and asked microbiologist Moselio Schaechter and asked him a few questions on fungi that were related and helped me have a better understanding of my topic. Also, he added extra information on fungi that I did not ask. I read his blog and other posts and learned a lot about different subjects and about different opinions on certain subjects from the comments.
Demonstrate an ability to read and understand current biology news
I will make sure that I pick topics that I can understand an that interest me. If i do not understand a topic, I will either research it further or ask a teacher or classmate for help.
I chose a topic that is related to violins, which greatly interest me, and classical music, which also interests me. To better understand the fungi involved in this topic, I did research and found a blog of a microbiologist and asked him a few questions for clarification.
I read many of my classmate's credible sources articles and I learned many new facts about their topics and other topics while seeing if the site and its information was credible.
I read a professional blog by Moselio Schaechter, which has articles on different topics in microbiology, such as the bacteria of a feather, ecology, genetics, evolution, yellow fever and mosquitoes, a guide to scientific meetings, the nitrogen cycle, different types fo mold, microbial art, and different types of fungi.
Demonstrate proper use of online resources
I will properly post videos, pictures with a creative commons liscense, and sites and make sure that they have hyperlinks in them.
I will make sure that all of my videos, pictures, and sites are related to the topic of the post.
I put multiple creative commons pictures in my blog post that are hyperlinked to their original site and are related to fungi or violins. These pictures are of a decorated Stradivarius violin, which is an example for the reader. Another is of a violin that is the title picture for my blog with a creative background. The last picture is of the fungi that was used in treating the spruce top half of the instruments. This fungi is called Xylaria longipes (Dead Man’s Fingers.)
I also posted a link to a video that is related to my topic and is hyperlinked. This video is by the weather channel, which is a reliable source for weather related information. This video gives background information on the weather that was during the time Stradivarius made his violins, on the background and history of the Stradivarius violins, and on the fungi used in this experiment and how it helps create a lower density level in the wood.
Publish work that is available for peer-review
I will make sure that my published work has questioned that can be answered by my peers.
I will also post credible sources that my peers can approve or disapprove, which will help me and my peers.
I added in three clear questions at the bottom of my post. Also, people can ask questions about my post and the experiment that was involved in it and people can visit the microbiologist's blog that I found and ask him questions that they have.
I posted five credible sources that are related to my topic and have valuable information that I used in my post. My peers and Ms. Baker approved some of these post and even disaproved some, which helped them earn a better grade on their blog project.
I posted my rough draft on my wiki page and my classmate Sam evaluated it and gave me advice that will help me improve my overall project. This helped Sam earn credit and it helped me improve my post and get ideas to add that would make it more interesting for the reader.
Discuss published work with a practicing biologist in that particular field
I can view other biologists pages and comment on them. As a result of this, they might go on my page and comment back, or they might comment on my posts. Also, I can contact and discuss topics with biologists.
I contacted the microbiologist, Moselio Schaechter and I asked him a few questions concerning my topic. He responded and told me detailed information about fungi and how fungi are the "great decomposers" and how they help our environment. Also he told me why they chose these particular types of fungi for decomposing the wood to make it less dense. He aded in a few points on fungi that I didn't ask and this helped me understand my topic and this helped support some of the information that I found on fungi and this experiment.
I read Moselio Schaechter's page and the comments that were posted on this. I did not comment because I contacted him personally, but these comments gave me ideas for my information in my post.
Provide constructive peer-review to classmates
I will read my peer's work, such as posts, credible sources, and other things and comment them.
I approved and disapproved many of my peer's credible sources and gave them constructive
. These peers are Jack, Sam, Jesse, Michael S, Geoffrey, Justin, and Carl. I also helped Sam in editing her blog post by providing constructive criticism to her rough draft of her blog post. I helped her in her creative commons pictures, gave her advice on adding and going into further detail on some topics in her post, and I told her what components in her blog were
I have also commented on student's posts in previous classes and discussed various topics and I have added videos and other information that helped my classmates get ideas to research further information.
Discuss in-class assignments
I will do posts on topics that we have done or are going to do in class.
I will also do posts on topics that interest my classmates and I so we can have an interesting discussion in class.
This is related to molecules because this type of wood is changed and improved because the cell structure of the wood changes once the wood is treated with fungi. This is because the wood becomes less dense. This relates to the major point in organic chemistry that structure determines function. In this case, the fungi's cell structure is being changed and in that change, the wood becomes less dense and this could change the function of the tree and the ways other organisms use this.
This post is related to biology and we will probably be learning about fungi and how they survive by breaking down wood.
My classmates might comment on my post once it is on the blog and if a certain topic interests them, they can bring it up in class discussions to learn more about it or to ask questions concerning fungi.
Apply creativity to work
I will put videos, creative commons pictures, and some videos made my me. This will make my post interesting and people will want to read my information and comment about it.
I put multiple creative commons pictures on my blog post that have different types of fungi in them and different violins. This helped make my blog post more interesting and it gave the reader an example to what I was talking about in my post.
I put a video link (because the video was not playing on my page) in my blog post that has scientific and historical references about my topic. This helps give the reader a clear example of the Stradivarius violin and how the fungi and weather helped in making the wood that was used during that time period.
I applied creativity to this project by picking a topic that interests me and that I know about and that interests me. Also, this helped my overall post because I knew background information on this topic and on the Stradivarius violins. My previous knowledge helped make my post interesting because I gave some information that is hard to find on the internet and that is knowledge that is known by musicians, not average people.
This is a video of the Carnival Overture by
. Dvořák was born in 1841 and he died in 1904. He was a Czech composer. Carnival is an upbeat overture that starts out with a fast opening. A melody emerges in the middle of the piece that features a solo violin, oboe, and a flute. A French horn is also included in this melody but it plays an accompanying part. The main melody returns in the end, which is very upbeat and like a carnival.
I have played the violin for 11 years. I played this overture last summer at my camp. In the course of 6 weeks we performed Tchaikovsky's Symphony number 5 in E minor, Stars and Stripes Forever, American Salute, Rhapsody in Blue, Beethoven's 5th Symphony in C minor, and the Carnival Overture by Dvořák. We also worked with members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and saw the New York Philharmonic perform.
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