I've been trying to figure out what this story's title is for years (I read it in Junior High back in the 80's).

I remember very little about the story, other than the narrator describing his discovery of a group of people who use a learned mental power to control probability. The group is able to use this power to destroy all nation's abilities to construct, or maintain, any sort of complex weapons (other than crude sticks and such). The story ends with the narrator relating that he has just flipped the same coin toss some outrageous amount of times in a row (or maybe it was a dice throw that came up the same - can't remember) and he was now ready to join the ranks of the group and go into hiding.

Any ideas?

  • I couldn't think of a different way to describe it (in a couple of words). The story features people who have "Learned" to bend and control probability to what ever results that they want. This control could be done in the immediate surroundings, or remotely. I believe the narrator uses coin tosses to illustrate. At the end of the story the narrator shows that he has mastered this skill by saying that he made 100's of consecutive coin tosses with the same result every time. I think the implication was that these people could make weapons malfunction or destroy themselves using this power.
    – Jim Martin
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 21:42
  • Oh, and it may have been a novella or novelette. This was probably around 1981 or 1982. I remember reading George R.R. Martin's "Sandkings" in the same class.
    – Jim Martin
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 21:59
  • possible duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/4458/…
    – Otis
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 15:44

1 Answer 1


This is Kurt Vonnegut's Report on the Barnhouse Effect.

It ends

I took the professor's dice, and then, with the last, nightmarish sentence flitting through my mind, I rolled fifty consecutive sevens.


It's not really a group though, just one guy (Professor Barnhouse) who is destroying all the weaponry - and, at the end, the narrator.

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