Myriad proposals have surfaced in the past several centuries to explain how Antonio Stradivari imbued his now priceless wares with transcendental sound. Some have suggested that Stradivari used beams from ancient cathedrals; others argued that he gave his wood a good urine soaking. The latest theory proposes that the craftsman should thank the sun's rays--or lack thereof.
Stradivari could not have known that his lifetime coincided almost exactly with the Maunder Minimum--the 70-year period (from 1645 to 1715) of reduced solar activity that contributed to colder temperatures throughout western Europe during what is called the Little Ice Age.
This article was originally published with the title String Theory.