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Oct 2002 Journal

previous article:Central Office for Holocaust Claims

Fresh air fashionable

This summer's talks and Continental Britons exhibition have highlighted the area around the Finchley Road which became home to many refugees from Nazi Europe. Today, between Finchley Road tube station and the AJR offices, there has sprung up a large mall of American-owned retail and entertainment outlets (plus a large Sainsbury) called the 02 Centre. The 02 symbol has been adopted by mobile phone operator BTCellnet, which recently changed its name to mm02 (mm standing for mobile media) and then abbreviated it still further to just 02. Why?

It seems that certain public relations firms, looking for a brand name to indicate freshness or fresh air, realised that 02 is the symbol for oxygen gas which we all need to breathe to stay alive. (The chemical symbol for the element oxygen is actually 0, but the molecules of oxygen gas contain two 0 atoms and are therefore written 02.) It is essential to our existence because it 'burns up' much of the food we eat and therefore liberates the energy we need to think, move about and keep warm. The food is our fuel. Similarly, coal or methane or oil are the fuels which are burnt in air (which contains 20% oxygen), to produce the energy to warm our homes and drive our cars.

Oxygen was independently discovered in the 1770s by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele and the English chemist Joseph Priestley. The French Scientist Antoine Lavoisier shortly afterwards explained its significance in combustion. The human drama as to which of the three men was the real discoverer of oxygen formed the plot of a fascinating and witty play Oxygen, which had a long run in London last year. In 2002 too, a novel entitled Oxygen by Andrew Miller was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and serialised this year on Radio 4. Perhaps one day a pop star couple will name their baby Oxygen or even Ohtwo - that would be the ultimate popular accolade!
Michael Spiro

previous article:Central Office for Holocaust Claims