The shape of today's violin wasn't the result of some genius's design specifications; instead, it developed over time, likely improving by chance, researchers say. As the Christian Science Monitor reports, an instrument's sound depends heavily on the way air flows through it: The more air that exits its sound holes, the louder the instrument will be.
But it's not about bigger sound holes, the MIT team explains. In fact, what matters is the hole's perimeter, where the most air flows. "More perimeter and less interior area"—as seen in a violin's f-shaped holes—"is better," says professor Nicholas Makris.