Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/880

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The works are at Besançon, and utilize a process devised by M. de Chardonnet, which is as follows: The pulp, thoroughly cleansed and looking very much like thick gum, is put into cylinders, from which it is forced through pipes into the spinning department. Here the machinery is very similar to that of the ordinary spinning shed, except that one of these pipes passes to each machine. The pipes are supplied with small taps, fixed close together, and each tap has a glass tube about the size of a gas burner, at the extreme point of which is a minute aperture, and through this the pulp is forced. These glass tubes are called the silkworms, and some twelve thousand of them are in use in the factory at Besançon. The pulp appears as a minute globule. This a girl touches with her thumb, to which it adheres, and she draws out an almost invisible filament, which she passes through the guides and onto the bobbin. Then, one by one, she takes eight, ten, or twelve other such filaments, according to the thickness of the thread to be made, and passes them through the same guides and onto the same bobbin. The subsequent details are practically those of ordinary natural silk spinning. The chief difference in appearance between the natural and the artificial silk is in the greater luster of the latter. The new product is said to take dye much more readily than the natural silk, but not to be quite so strong. It is stated that a factory for the manufacture of this material is to be erected near Manchester, England, which will cost $150,000.


Old Madagascar War Customs.—Descriptions of curious war customs that prevailed in Madagascar are quoted by M. A. Grandidier from Mayeur, who visited that country in 1*785, or more than a hundred years ago. The hostile bands usually agreed on the day and place of the battle, and at the appointed time the opposing parties marched to the designated spot. When all was ready, some of the soldiers of one host advanced, fired their guns, and ran back to the protection of their army. While these were reloading, the soldiers on the opposite side went through the same manœuvre; and this was continued till one of the hosts got so much the worse of the fight that it retired. Both armies would then go home and return to the occupations of peace, to resume their odd hostilities at some future time. The first battle that Mayeur witnessed lasted from ten o'clock in the morning till four o'clock in the afternoon, with twelve thousand soldiers in line, without victory to either side, while there were twenty-two killed and wounded. Ten days afterward, one of the chiefs having obtained re-enforcements, the fight was resumed and hotly contested till, in the very thickest of it, a cloud of locusts suddenly darkened the sky and alighted on the neighboring rice fields. Firing was stopped at once, and all the combatants went pell-mell to picking the destructive insects, of which they were very fond as food. Women, children, and old men hurried out of the villages, where they had hidden themselves, and mingled with the soldiers; and in less than a quarter of an hour the plain was covered with more than twenty thousand people, squatting on all fours and capturing the insects. It was the custom, M. Grandidier observes, to suspend hostilities in the presence of a plague, which, as the king said to Mayeur, threatens a whole people, while war generally interests only the chief who makes it.


The Year's Polar Expeditions.—Dr. Frithiof Nansen, who started from Christiania, Norway, in June, 1893, in the Uttle vessel Fram, to reach the north pole if possible, has returned, after having attained latitude 86° 14′ north, within about two hundred and fifty miles of the pole, the highest point yet reached. (An excursion twelve miles farther on ski is also mentioned.) Dr. Nansen started with the expectation of meeting a current in which his vessel would be borne along with the ice to the pole and past it, basing the expectation on information which has since been found to be false. The Fram was constructed in a peculiar manner, so that when it met the heavy ice it should be lifted up and borne upon it instead of being crushed by it. In latitude 78° 50′ north, longitude 138° 37′ east, and in the latter part of September, 1893, the ship was allowed to be closed in by the ice, and was then drifted north and northwestward during the fall and winter months. A sudden increase in the depth of the water at latitude 70° to from sixteen hundred to nineteen hundred fathoms seems, according to Dr. Nansen, to upset the theories