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Science fiction anthology story. Indestructible iron bar falls out of thin air. It transfers this property to all it touches. Wars end as no more weapons can be made.

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    This is probably enough for someone who has read the story, but some additional details could be quite helpful. Can you remember the details of any other stories in this anthology? Was the bar really iron, or some sort of alien metal?
    – Adamant
    Oct 14, 2016 at 5:54
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    Could you please provide more details? Or at least complete sentences?
    – SQB
    Oct 14, 2016 at 7:35
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    I don’t know…this is terse, but very specific.
    – Adamant
    Oct 14, 2016 at 8:40
  • @Adamant Since the OP does not respond, would you mind explaining to me what "this property" refers to? Does the whole planet turn into indestructible iron bars? If no more weapons (or anything else?) can be made, are there not enough stockpiled for a good sized war? Do the existing weapons turn into iron bars? (Obviously I haven't read the story.)
    – user14111
    Oct 14, 2016 at 9:22
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    @user14111 - I assumed the property was transferred to all the metal it touched. Otherwise, as you say, the OP would have written “the world is destroyed as everything turns to iron.” In any case, this has now been answered, so I think my belief about its specificity was pretty much correct. When I saw it, I knew that I could have answered it if I had read the book. I’ve voted to reopen.
    – Adamant
    Oct 14, 2016 at 19:15

1 Answer 1

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The story you're thinking of is Juggernaut by A. E. van Vogt. Click on the link to see a list of all the anthologies it's been collected in. I read it in The Best of A. E. van Vogt.

The story starts when A hand reached out of nothingness and drops an iron bar into someone's living room. The bar goes to a scrap dealer where a while later steel starts coming out of the furnaces that is too hard to work. This ultrahardness transfers to any other steel in contact with the ultrahard steel.

The story is set in 1943, and the US drop samples of the steel in Germany to infect the German production with the ultrahard steel. The point is that the Germans had no steel reserves so once all their steel was contaminated their steel production would stop and they would be unable to make more weapons. The US had a big reserve of uncontaminated munitions, so they were inevitably going to win the war. Once all steel was contaminated no more weapons could be made and all war would end.

Van Vogt's notes on the story say he read a book on steel production to try to make the story sound authentic. Unfortunately he read a British book and in the story he used British terminology that confused his American readers. From the introduction to The Best of A. E. van Vogt:

Another example: I read an entire text book on the production and manufacture of steel and its by-products. I used the terminology in a little short story, titled, “Juggernaut”.
To my dismay, a reader wrote in with a puzzled appraisal, stating that I seemed to know something about the subject; but that, as a steel man himself, he had to report that he had never heard any of the terms.
It developed that I had read a book about British steel production.

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