I read a short story at least 18 years ago for an extra credit grade in a physical science class. I'm pretty sure it started with some future person finding a journal of a scientist detailing the demise of civilization due to the second ice age. In it the scientist recounts how they invented some kind of liquid that had a higher freezing point that was also more dense than water and would therefor sink. It was accidentally introduced to the ecosystem- I think a test tube of it was dropped cleaners just washed it down a drain to the horror of the scientist(s). Over a number of years it basically wiped out humankind. It cause natural bodies of water to freeze from the bottom but then not thaw out completely and over successive winters water sources basically became inaccessible due to this "deep freeze" which killed of wildlife, food sources, etc. I seem to remember the story being a few pages typed and for some reason it is stuck in my head! Does anyone recognize this story?? I would love to find it again!
"The Catalyst", by G.R. Yohe, contains all the key plot points mentioned- future people finding a record of a past catastrophe, ice that sinks and does not melt, accidental disposal into the ecosystem. It is approximately 4 pages.
It can be read online here.
I recall reading this short story (The Catalyst) in school in the mid-to-late 1960's. It was printed in a monthly Science News type handout used in a grade school science class. I remember the story well and somewhere over the years I ran across it again (probably in a book of science fiction short stories). At the time, I didn't know about Cat's Cradle. Just recently, I read that "heavy water" deuterium, has the similar property, that frozen heavy water sinks rather than floats. My thought is that this special property of heavy water is likely the inspiration for Cat's Cradle and The Catalyst. Note, G.R. Yohe (author of The Catalyst) was a chemist!
I enjoyed the fictional story way back then, it illustrated both the idea of a catalyst AND the importance of water's unique behavior when freezing.