Week 2: Mycelium and Bread

This week's lecture was so interesting! I personally love mushrooms, but had never thought about them being more than just a nice addition to a meal.

I found the information in "The Organic Internet of a Mycelium Network" video to be fascinating; I had no idea fungi had these extensive networks running underground. They are all interconnected, and have a symbiotic relationship with the trees around them. They pick up nutrients and water in the soil, bringing them back to the plants, while the plants provide them with photosynthetic carbon. I also thought the idea of mushroom mycelium having a consciousness to be mind-blowing! I could not believe the Japanese researchers found that slime mold navigated a maze using the shortest distance possible. I also agree with the point made in the video regarding communication; just because we do not have the skill set to be able to communicate with nature, does not mean plants and organisms are not communicating among one another. As a communication major myself, I find the idea of nature communicating fascinating. It also brings me to wonder whether we actually communicate with nature around us as well, but maybe unconsciously? I found an interesting article speculating whether communication may be possible between trees and people, but have not found any actual studies looking into this: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/may/28/branching-out-is-communication-possible-between-trees-and-people.

I also found this beautiful high resolution image of a mycelium network:

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The TED talk "My mushroom burial suit" by Jae Rhim Lee was also very informative. I was shocked to learn how much preserving dead bodies can negatively impact the environment, from using toxic formaldehyde to slow decomposition, to all of the environmental toxins our bodies houses and filters. While I appreciated her idea of the Infinity Burial Project, I cannot help but wonder how receptive the general population will be to it. For example, in my culture, it is customary to cremate bodies upon death. I cannot imagine my family members being open to any other option, so I think it is important to consider cultural and other factors when promoting projects like these and generating solutions.

Bacteria also play a very important role in making kombucha, a drink that has recently gained popularity in the Western world. Yeast first hydrolyse into glucose and fructose, then produce ethanol and carbon dioxide. Afterwards, glucose and fructose are converted into gluconic and acetic acids. The ethanol also produces acetic and lactic acid. The low pH as a result of the production of these acids protects the drink from contaminants, as many microbes cannot survive in those conditions. Yeast can also be used to make bread, where enzymes from the yeast ferment sugar, forming ethanol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide helps the bread rise.

We also visited the CNSI art show! This was my first time attending, and all of the pieces were incredible! The mosaic made from different SCOBY pieces was absolutely beautiful. I was also surprised to learn that the background music was actually made from sounds of people scratching or tapping parts of their bodies. All of the artists are truly so creative; I would have never thought of putting pieces together like that to create art!

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I unfortunately did not have time to make bread this week, but here is some sourdough I bought from Ralphs!

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Works Cited

Bush, Evan. “'Amazon Forests of the Underground': Why Scientists Want to Map the World's Fungi.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 12 Dec. 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/amazon-forests-underground-scientists-want-map-worlds-fungi-rcna7899.

Lee, Jae Rhim. “My Mushroom Burial Suit.” Jae Rhim Lee: My Mushroom Burial Suit | TED Talk, 2011, https://www.ted.com/talks/jae_rhim_lee_my_mushroom_burial_suit.

María. “The Organic Internet of a Mycelium Network: Suzanne Simard, Paul Stamets, and Terence Mackenna.” YouTube, YouTube, 28 Apr. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGyECGJqWDU.

Wettstadt, Sarah. “#FEMSmicroBlog: About the Microbes in Kombucha.” FEMS, 4 Dec. 2021, https://fems-microbiology.org/femsmicroblog-microbes-in-kombucha/.

Wohlleben, Peter. “Branching out: Is Communication Possible between Trees and People?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/may/28/branching-out-is-communication-possible-between-trees-and-people.

“Yeast and the Expansion of Bread Dough.” RSC Education, 25 Mar. 2015, https://edu.rsc.org/experiments/yeast-and-the-expansion-of-bread-dough/1748.article#:~:text=Yeast%20is%20a%20microbe%20used,when%20the%20bread%20is%20baked.