The Economist breaks down the findings of a recent study explaining the evolution of the violin’s design.
Biological evolution happens by random mutation and selection. Technological evolution involves selection, too. Products preferred by customers are the ones that reproduce. But since technology is the product of conscious design, the mutation part of the process might reasonably be assumed to be deliberate rather than random.
A study just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society suggests, however, that this is not always the case. Nicholas Makris and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in collaboration with Roman Barnas, a violin maker at the North Bennet Street School, in Boston, have been looking at the evolution of that instrument. One aspect of the process intrigued them in particular—the changing shape, over the years, of the holes in a violin’s body that allow the sound to emerge.