On the ball


For those of you not afflicted by World Cup fever, turn away now.

For the rest of us addicts, it’s finally here…

Despite England’s tepid performances we are through to the second round and now that Rooney’s back, we’re obviously going all the way to the final. Of course we are. Seriously. Come on now, stop laughing.

I’ve noticed that one or two chem blogs out there have also turned their attention to Germany 2006, including Paul at The Endless Frontier who is spurring on Team USA (who won’t be going to the final, or even the second round – sorry Paul). Also check out the special feature at nature.com.

Just how distracting/addictive/consuming is the World Cup?

A recent story reports that the World Cup may cost the British economy a staggering £4 billion in lost productivity – although not as many people may stay away from work as they did four years ago, the broadcast of the games live on the web by the BBC is likely to have a significant impact (I was going to put the link in here, but then I would feel partially responsible for that £4 billion – and of course, I have no idea what the link is and have no intention of going there…). Another study, however, claims that the influence of the World Cup may be just the opposite and that it may lead to increased motivation and foster greater team spirit.

This all reminded me of a review article published by K C Nicolaou back in 1996 concerning the total synthesis of brevetoxin B. In the final stages of the synthesis, there was an unexpected delay, which is best described in Nicolaou’s own words:

Projections were made that by the end of August 1994 we would reach our destination and submit the papers for publication early in September. I was convinced that these five men would carry out their mission as planned, for by then I was well aware of their talents and commitment. As it happened, one more August would come and go before we would arrive at “Ithaca”. In my calculations, I had neglected a small detail, a detail that became an important factor, and one that “Poseidon” would exploit at our expense and inflict one more delay before the final success…

During the summer of 1994, when the final campaign towards brevetoxin B was taking place, the World Cup in Soccer was hosted in the U. S., and all the members of the brevetoxin B team were either European or Japanese! Placing such soccer fanatics on the team for this highly demanding operation was rather unfortunate. Well, you can never think of everything in total synthesis! Brevetoxin B could not, however, escape for much longer, and before the end of the fall in that year it was destined to yield to the enthusiasm and pressure of these relentless professionals. Needless to say, this victory was to serve well as a consolation to each one of them for their countries’ not winning the World Cup!

So there you have it, World Cup fever may or may not be bad for business, but it certainly gets in the way of lab work. Now, which games are on today…


Stuart Cantrill (Associate Editor, Nature Nanotechnology)

Please sign in or register for FREE

If you are a registered user on Nature Portfolio Chemistry Community, please sign in