Another short story from some 1970-80s anthology.

A scientist is involved in an explosion at a reactor or collider facility. There's a lot of distruction but he is pulled out of the ruins alive.

Doctors treat his injuries, but medications are less successful. Over a few days the man's appetite returns but it seems that the food they give him isn't doing him any good and he begins to look starved.

After examining some wreckage, scientists eventually realise that it has been reversed at an atomic level. This also true of the survivor. Wrong-handed molecules of food can no longer nourish him.

Creating enough opposite to normal food molecules is obviously impractical. The only solution to prevent him from starving to death is to re-stage the incident and hope he is re-reversed back to normal.

I can't remember what the outcome of this was.

  • 1
    I remember a story of similar vintage - a detail was a left glove being rotated in 4-space and becoming a right glove. It was a horror story, but I don't remember what grisly fate befell the protagonist.
    – user888379
    May 12, 2022 at 19:44
  • 1
    @user888379 That might well have been The Big Time by Fritz Leiber. An incident with such a glovve occurs in that novel, which is the core of the "Change Wars" series,. The series aslso includes "Try and Chane the Past", "A Deskfull of Girls", "Knight to Move", and some others. This might make a good separate question. May 13, 2022 at 1:43
  • @DavidSiegel Definitely not Leiber - this was a short story in an anthology, and I don't remember the author's name.
    – user888379
    May 13, 2022 at 17:59
  • Spelling: destruction
    – PJTraill
    May 17, 2022 at 9:02

1 Answer 1


Arthur C. Clarke, "Technical Error"

Great summary of the story in the question. Also a full summary at Wikipedia here.

The outcome was...it ended poorly

They tried to recreate the accident and re-reverse him, but he vanished. It turned out that for...reasons, it sent him a little ways forwards in time. They gave up waiting on him, and he ended up rematerializing inside the machine after they reassembled it, causing a huge explosion.

  • 10
    And of course dealt with in a much less grim fashion in Zelazny's Doorways in the Sand.
    – DavidW
    May 12, 2022 at 16:02
  • 6
    And it's how Dr McCoy told real-Spock from duplicate-Spock in Spock Must Die by James Blish. It was the first ever original Star Trek novel.
    – Pete
    May 12, 2022 at 17:42
  • @Pete I wrote an answer about that back in 2015 scifi.stackexchange.com/a/84307/28516 May 12, 2022 at 18:27
  • I don't remember which story it was, but the one I remember they had to 'reverse' food for him so that he wouldn't starve.
    – sueelleker
    May 13, 2022 at 11:03
  • 1
    Yes, that's it. The bit about the time delay and moving equipment into the same space is familiar. Thanks. May 13, 2022 at 12:38

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