September 13, 2008

All about the Chemistry

The transfer window at most international leagues closes in a week and there's a lot of talk about chemistry and loyalty. Should X leave team Y and take a job at Z? Between Y and Z, where is the better chemistry? There is a pledge to pursue “winning chemistry” at the Aussie A-League's new Gold Coast club franchised by yet another soccer billionaire. Credit was given to coach Pia Sundhage for creating “chemistry off the field” when the U.S. Women defended their gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. And it was due to his “negative effect on team chemistry” when Van Nistlerooy was kicked out of Manchester United's hotel by Sir Alex Ferguson back in '06.

In Goethe's 1809 novel Die Wahlverwandtschaften, Eduard and Charlotte are a married couple dealing with temptation. Each feels better chemistry with another; in Charlotte's case it's the dashing Captain and in Eduard's case it's the young Ottilie.

One day the four have a conversation about elective relationships among chemical compounds. The Captain explains that such opposites as acids and alkalis exhibit a mutual attraction – a tendency to “choose” each other – while Eduard insists that the mixing of compounds is most interesting when this results in a “divorce” and a “crosswise” reunion, so that the mixing of AB + CD results in the new compounds AD + BC. Limestone placed in dilute sulphuric acid is turned into gypsum, and the unstable acid known as carbonic acid evaporates in the form of carbon dioxide and may or may not succeed in finding a new partner. Charlotte finds it a sad commentary that chemists used to be known as “Scheidekünstler” (masters of separation). What is most in need everywhere are “Einungskünstler” (masters of unification). In any case, persons interact at a level above that of the elements. Or do they? Do players really ever switch teams because of the prospect of better chemistry elsewhere? Or isn't it really just about the money?

The English title for Die Wahlverwandtschaften is Elective Affinities, a term the field of chemistry borrows from the social sphere, which in turn was borrowed back by Goethe for his novel. It's a story about adultery, but whether or not it's an adulterous story is Goethe's little twist. Read it and find out.


Paul Spinger said...

In der Umgangssprache sprechen wir auch heute davon, dass "die Chemie zwischen zwei Leuten stimmt".
Sehr amüsant das Ganze, Danke schön.

Anonymous said...

the mets have chemistry, but they are tanking right now. I have been Germany, nice country.