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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!

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    That’s the basic plot of Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, which is a novel rather than a short story which is why this isn’t an answer. – Mike Scott Jan 19 '18 at 18:10
  • @dayze7777 Welcome to the site. You have a good start here. If you could take a look at this guide to help jog your memory and edit in any more details, that would be great. Every little bit helps us. – amflare Jan 19 '18 at 18:11
  • @mike Scott Yeah- When I furiously googling to try and identify it myself, I did see lot's of references to Ice-nine from Cat's Cradle but it's definitely not that. It was handed out by my then science teacher in a stapled packet of no more than 5 or 6 pages. – dayze7777 Jan 19 '18 at 18:13
  • Could your science teacher have abstracted part of Cat's Cradle containing the above 5or 6 pages? – Simon Bucher-Jones Jan 19 '18 at 18:54
  • @SimonBucher-Jones I don't think so... I only say that because those few pages told the full story. Plus, there was no mention of using the chemical for military applications. I would venture to say that this short story could have been inspired by Cat's Cradle... However, full disclosure- I've never read that particular Vonnegut novel so I can't be sure... Does the novel have a prologue where a short summary might be retold through this reflective devise of a future person finding this scientists journal? – dayze7777 Jan 19 '18 at 18:59
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"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.

  • Can you explain why it fits, in case the document goes away? – FuzzyBoots Feb 3 '18 at 23:08
  • 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. I cannot find the original, but there are several pdfs online. – LPA_Penny Feb 3 '18 at 23:35
  • @LPA_Penny : Thank you so much! This is definitely the story I was thinking of... I got a few small details mixed up in my recolection but this is it- Appreciated!! – dayze7777 Feb 6 '18 at 18:40
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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.

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