Spider silk makes music

Pound for pound, spider silk is one of the strongest materials known: Research by MIT's Markus Buehler has helped explain that this strength arises from silk's unusual hierarchical arrangement of protein building blocks.

Now Buehler — together with David Kaplan of Tufts University and Joyce Wong of Boston University — has synthesized new variants on silk's natural structure, and found a method for making further improvements in the synthetic material. And an ear for music, it turns out, might be a key to making those structural improvements.

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Melanie Gonick; Computer simulations courtesy of Markus Buehler, David Kaplan and Joyce Wong; Elizabeth Erenberg, flutist