At the beginning of the 1970s Shirakawa was studying the polymerisation of acetylene. In his reaction vessel polyacetylene appeared in the form of an unremarkable black powder. On one occasion a visiting researcher accidentally added one thousand times more catalyst than usual. Imagine the researchers' surprise when a beautiful silvery film formed on the surface of the liquid in the vessel. The obvious question was: "If the plastic film shines like a metal, can it conduct electricity, too?"