This was part of the prologue of a book on psychology and physiology (for a chapter on senses outside of the typical 5) that I have since misplaced. I'm pretty sure that I read it somewhere in the early 2000s, but I also had a tendency to pick up expired textbooks, so it was probably at least a few years older. It's possible they made the scene up themselves, but I think the stories were borrowed from other sources, so there's a decent chance it exists elsewhere.

A man (99% certain it was indeed a man, late 20s to early 30s) wakes up in a stark windowless room with some furniture. For some reason, he starts to suspect that he's in space despite gravity being normal, specifically one where they use centrifugal force to simulate gravity by spinning a ring. He does a series of tests to prove this. I remember that one was noting that the dirt collected on one side of the room. The second involved getting up on a piece of furniture and noting that he got dizzy (I want to say he fell off of the chair as a result of it) because his head was moving at a different speed than the rest of his body. I want to say there might have been another test that he did.

At the end of the story, he finds that he has been abducted by aliens, and his determining that this was indeed a space station meant he'd passed their test.

Since it seems that the story itself has been found, but the books listed for which it appears are not correct in ISFDB, it's sparked me to remember a few of the other stories that appeared at the beginning of chapters.

  • A story of a guidance counselor putting together clues about a student — uncoordinated clothing, a difficulty in hitting a baseball, and a nickname of "bunny" — that they're albino.
  • A story where a female student discusses the famous "feed the ground-up flatworm to another flatworm to have them instantly learn the maze" experiment with an implication that she plans to grind up another student to help her pass her final.
  • A story where a student does the famous "prove peer pressure by having three stooges provide the wrong answer" experiment, with one experiment having the light being judged having burned out leading to the test subject going into a breakdown because 3 out of 4 people saw a light he didn't.
  • A story where a student studies marijuana usages in a primitive culture, realizes that the effects are relatively benign, and has his professor sadly note that previous studies have found the same thing, but that the government wasn't interested in such results.

I had not included these stories because they were pretty firmly not SF&F.

  • That's vaguely reminiscent of the opening of Hal Clement's novella "Attitude" (available at archive.org): the hero wakes up in a windowless cell on a spaceship, having been abducted by aliens. However Clement's guy is in zero G, not normal gravity.. – user14111 Dec 1 '16 at 23:57
  • I read through and indeed, it doesn't seem to match. The key part here was that they tried to replicate Earth gravity, and he would not have known the difference without his tests. – FuzzyBoots Dec 2 '16 at 2:12
  • A similar scene, but opposite, is in J. P. Hogan's Enigma. And an estimate of the gravity on a spaceship comes up in R. Sawyer's Golden Fleece – LSerni Dec 2 '16 at 15:48

This sounds exactly like the short story "Learning Theory" by James McConnell. That story is in Groff Conklin's anthology "Great Science Fiction by Scientists," from 1966.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.