National Geographic : 1984 May
Members Forum Italy "Surviving, Italian Style" (February 1984) makes a long-overdue point: Italy may not be much of a nation, but it is one of the most success ful civilizations. An art restorer in the convent of San Marco, repairing the damage of the 1966 Florence flood, was a local hero; it is no accident that portraits on Italian currency are cultural gi ants like Galileo and Michelangelo. One day the Nazione of Florence ran an editorial about the country's bureaucracy, with the title "Nella Giungla del Potere-Inthe Jungle of Power." I noticed that the editorial's title scans exactly the same as the quartet from Rigoletto ("Bellafiglia dell' amore"), and I was reassured: If you can sing a country's politics, it's probably either safe and sound-or else totally unimportant. Douglas J. Stewart Waltham, Massachusetts Southeast Alaska Your article (January 1984) is a beautiful begin ning to discovery of this magnificent sector of Alaska. Two years ago, I worked as an interpre tive naturalist on board the Alaskan state ferry M/V Taku and traveled the Inside Passage on nu merous occasions. In future years it may or may not become evi dent that the congressionally mandated cut per decade of 4.5 billion board feet of timber is nei ther economically nor biologically feasible. However, it is important to note that this timber cut was a trade-off for the 104.2 million acres that were designated as parks, preserves, national monuments, recreation areas, and wildlife ref uges throughout Alaska. This includes 13 na tional monuments and wilderness areas in Southeast Alaska alone. Anne Huebner Fort Collins, Colorado Your article on Alaska was informative and ma jestic. There is one point that needs correction in this otherwise excellent article-it says the only access to Juneau is via water or air. This is not so. I had a college chum who came to Juneau another way: He was born there. The Reverend Robert R. Branch Essex, Massachusetts Your reference to Joe Juneau and FredHarris on page 62 of the January 1984 issue may be incor rect. A well researched book on Alaska from Time-Life Books refers to Richard Harris. Chad J. Bardone Dallas, Texas You're right. Joe Juneau and Richard Harris were the men who struck gold in Alaska in 1880. Silk I thoroughly enjoyed "The Queen of Textiles" in your January 1984 issue. When silk is purchased, its weight is referred to in "mummies." China silk, the lightest weight silk, which literally floats on air, is usually four to eight mummies. The heaviest silk I've ever purchased is 32 mummies and is hard to find in New York City. Most silk Charmeuse seems to be between 16 and 22 mum mies. It's a nice weight for a drapey blouse and just heavy enough for a dress. I guessed that mummies refer to the number of cocoons used to make up a single thread in the fabric. Does Ms. Hyde know what mummies refer to in the manu facturing of silk? AlisonTodd Tenafly, New Jersey The term "momme" is a Japanese unit of weight equalto 3.75 grams. In the silk trade, the term in dicates the fabric weight per square meter. "The Queen of Textiles" fails to mention the seri culture carried on in several parts of the Utah Territory beginning in 1855 and lasting through the early 1900s. Samples of silk from Utah were entered in the 1893 Chicago world's fair and won prizes. Susan B. Anthony wore a dress of Utah silk presented her by the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a silk-lace collar was presented to Mrs. Ruther ford B. Hayes. fordB. Hayes. Leah Y. Bryson Bountiful, Utah Your article states that the silk liquid hardens on exposure to air, as if it dried out or reacted with something in air. Several observations, such as a worm's supporting its weight by continuously spinning filament or the passage of the filament through the coating organs before emerging, are persuasive to me that the filament may harden well before emerging. What may actually happen, and be the reason for those long tubes, is that the giant protein mol ecules, which are linear, get straightened out from flow shear. In this conformation, certain functional groups along the molecules could be come exposed and are able to react with what wa ter is there to form bridges between them. An analogy is cement, which hardens by incorpo rating water into crystals, not by drying out.