Japanese Researcher Finds New Use for Spider Silk

April 20, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. profound (adj.) 
[pruh-found] – deep or very strongly felt
Example: An oboe produces a more profound sound than a flute.

2. twist (v.) [twist] – to join together individual threads by wrapping them to each other
Example:  Ropes are formed by twisting separate cords.

3. strand (n.) [strand] – a single, thin piece of wire, thread or any other similar material
Example: I combed the strands of my hair.

4. retain (v.) [ri-teyn] – to keep or continue to have something
Example: We cannot retain our youthful skin forever, because aging is unstoppable.

5. one of a kind (idiom) [wuhn][uhv][ey][kahynd] – unique or uncommon, so special that there is nothing like it
Example:  Handmade products are one of a kind.

Read the text below.

Dr. Shigeyoshi Osaki, a Japanese researcher from Nara Medical University, has found a new material for making violin strings: spider silk.

According to him, spider silk strings are not only strong; they also produce a softer and more profound sound than violin strings used today.

The strength of spider silk violin strings may be due to the way they are made. In order to make a whole set of violin strings, Dr. Osaki used silk from 300 female spiders. He first twisted about 3000 to 5000 strands of spider silk to form a single cord. Three of such cords were then twisted together, resulting in one violin string.

But it’s not the number of silk strands that make these violin strings special.  Dr. Osaki discovered that when packed together, spider silk strands leave no spaces between each other.  While other materials, like nylon, retain their shape when packed, spider silk strands change shape under pressure, allowing strands to be packed tightly.

The lack of spaces in the material creates a solid string structure that is stronger than commonly produced nylon-core strings, but still weaker than traditional strings made from animal fibers, says Dr. Osaki. The strength of the silk material, however, assures that the strings would not easily break during a concert.

Dr. Osaki believes the solid structure is also the reason why the strings’ sound is one of a kind. Professional violinists who have tried the strings have also said the good sound could lead to new kinds of music. 

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         How has nature challenged the way we think?
·         Do you agree with the statement “nature is our best teacher”? Please explain why.

Discussion B

·         What musical instrument do you like best? Why is that so?
·         Why do you think some people are interested in re-inventing musical instruments?


April 20, 2012