I encountered this story sometime between 1960 and 1990.

An invention was made that could convert any matter into useful materials, but with the loss of most of the mass. No one understand how or where the mass disappeared, but no one cared much. In a series of vignettes, people keep asking, "Won't this be a problem someday?" A child who was taken to see an enormous granite quarry that was being used as stock for the converter asked this, and his father just laughed heartily.

But there was a row when the Antarcticans converted so much water as to lower sea level (yeah, I know, that's ironic now). Over the course of many generations, no one even remembered what the Earth used to look like, as so much of it was converted, and records were lost because the old ones were also converted.

At the end of the story, the Earth is down to 2/3 of its original volume and there is still no awareness of any problem.

  • Oh, snap. There's a similar question like that around here somewhere...
    – JRE
    Apr 28, 2019 at 17:31
  • Hi there. That's a very nice description already, but just in case, could you please take a look at these guidelines on story-ID, see if they trigger any more memories you could edit in?
    – Jenayah
    Apr 28, 2019 at 17:31
  • Here's the question I was thinking of. "The Dwindling Sphere."
    – JRE
    Apr 28, 2019 at 17:36
  • OK, thanks. The story was in English, and it was very likely in an anthology of stories by different authors. I don't recall any phrases word for word, but there was one more detail that I remember. In the last vignette, it was mentioned that people used carpet to cover the Earth's bare rock surface. Apr 28, 2019 at 17:37
  • 1
    Bingo! Thank you very much! Apr 28, 2019 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


Looks like this is "The Dwindling Sphere" by Willard Hawkins.

It was also an unaccepted answer to the question "Future humans build using dirt, go to war over small amounts of it"

An inadvertent invention can be used to make most anything, but it "consumes" a large part of the mass it transforms.

The story follows the idea ad absurdum to the point where people have used the machine so much that the Earth has shrunk to be smaller than the moon.

Eventually, a war starts over rights to mines (pits) for material to feed the converters.

The story is written as a series of diary entries, newspaper articles, and transcripts of speeches from various politicians.


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