Magic mushrooms

Amazing story in The Economist.

A FEW years ago Francis Schwarze noticed something unusual. Dr Schwarze, who works at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, in St Gallen, knew that sound travels faster through healthy wood, which is stiff and dense, than it does through the soft stuff left by a fungal attack. But some fungi, he found, do not slow sound. Moreover, the acoustic properties of wood so affected seem to be just what violin-makers desire. So Dr Schwarze had some violins made from the infected wood and discovered that they sounded like a Stradivarius.

But the really lovely bit is that at the end of the piece the magazine provides two audio recordings which enable one to compare a violin made from untreated wood with one that’s made from fungal-infected timber.