June 15, 2010
Thirty-two football (soccer) teams from around the globe are battling it out in South Africa this month for the World Cup. The trophy isn’t a cup, though. It’s a gold statue of a man holding up a globe. The trophy’s creator, Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga, described it:
The lines spring out from the base, rising in spirals, stretching out to receive the world. From the remarkable dynamic tensions of the compact body of the sculpture rise the figures of two athletes at the stirring moment of victory.
FIFA says that the trophy is 36 centimeters (14.2 inches) tall, weighs 6175 grams (13.6 pounds) and is made of solid 18-carat gold with two layers of malachite at the base. However, University of Nottingham chemist Martyn Poliakoff, in the video above, says that there is no way that the trophy could be solid gold. If it were, he says, it would weight 70 to 80 kilograms (154 to 176 pounds) and be far too heavy for a member of the winning team to lift over his head in celebration of a tournament win.
Gold is very dense: think of any heist movie in which the criminals are making off with gold bars and you should remember them straining under the weight if they were lifting more than one at a time. A standard gold bar is 400 ounces (25 pounds) and only 7.8 inches long. The gold in the World Cup trophy will be lighter—18-carat gold is only 75 percent actual gold; pure gold is too soft to be used in a statue—but will still be very heavy. A statue more than a foot tall would have to weigh at least as much as one gold bar, if not more, I would think.
Poliakoff suggests that the globe section of the statue, despite FIFA’s claims, is actually hollow, like a chocolate Easter bunny. What do you think?
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