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I'm looking for a short story that gives a pseudo-scientific explanation for the biblical story of Lot's wife getting turned into a pillar of salt when fleeing Sodom and looking back.

I think the premise that the author was accidentally invited to speak at a science conference, for which he wrote the story as a medical case study of an extreme case of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, caused by the shock the poor victim experienced by seeing her old home and city being destroyed. The case study ends with a quote of Genesis 19:26.

But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Only then we learn the story is about the wife of Lot.

The story then concludes with something along the lines of

Needless to say, I was laughed out of the room.


I thought it was written by Asimov, but I can't find it in lists of his short stories. It may have been a collection compiled by him.

I read it in the mid-nineties, but it's probably older, as I'm pretty sure I read in a book that belonged to either my uncle or my grandfather.

Or course I've turned to Google, but to no avail.

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"A singular case of extreme electrolyte balance associated with folie a deux" by Robert D. Tschirgi, as seen in Worm Runner's Digest, 1965, VII(2), pp. 78-79.

Some pieces require a faint familiarity with other classics of literature and science. "A singluar [sic] case of extreme electrolyte balance assocviated [sic] with folie a deux" uses the style of a clinical report to describe why Lot's wife became a pillar of salt.

I have not yet found the actual date of the entry (or other references to the content), but the journal started in 1959 and ended in 1979, so it fits the timeframe. One place it was reprinted is Science, Sex, and Sacred Cows. Another is 11th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F.

user14111 has confirmed the ending. After quoting Genesis XIX, 24–26, the last line is:

I am pleased to report, Dr. Tschirgi's note concludes, that I was laughed off the podium.

  • "A Singular Case of Extreme Electrolyte Balance Associated with Folie a Deux (1965) by Robert D. Tschirgi "- is also in a few SciFi anthologies (eg en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…) – SeanR Feb 7 '17 at 17:06
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    NB - this does appear to be a reprint of the same too (I just wanted to give the author credit): isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?93395 – SeanR Feb 7 '17 at 17:07
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    @SeanR - Better now? – Valorum Feb 7 '17 at 17:10
  • You're absolutely right. I forgot to amend my answer after SeanR provided that link. – FuzzyBoots Feb 8 '17 at 2:50
  • Yes, that's it. I've read it in The Year's Best S-F. Thank you. How did you find it? I've searched for numerous combinations of pillar of salt and electrolyte. – SQB Feb 8 '17 at 7:17

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