I’m looking for a short story in which a man is with a machine (maybe in a cave) and the machine makes a false statement (similar to 1+1=3) and the man corrects the machine which somehow ends in the machine combusting.

I think the title may have had the word machine in it. I’ve looked through almost all of the top short stories so it may be a lesser known one.

  • See also ST:TOS episodes "The Changeling" and "I, Mudd."
    – Lexible
    Aug 16, 2022 at 0:29
  • Was it Malfunctioning Eddie?
    – Valorum
    Aug 16, 2022 at 15:23

1 Answer 1


Stanisław Lem wrote a story called Trurl's Machine that has some similarities to the story you describe. The eponymous Trurl builds a robot and to test it asks the robot what two plus two is, and the robot answers "seven".

There then follows an argument between Trurl and the robot at the end of which the enraged robot attacks Trurl forcing him to hide in a cave, so there is a cave in the story as well.

However the robot doesn't spontaneously combust. The story tells us:

But when they had lost all hope, and the air was thick with acrid smoke and choking dust, there was suddenly a horrible scraping, and a sound like a slow explosion, louder than all the maniacal banging and battering, and the air whooshed, and the black wall that blocked the cave was whisked away, as if by a hurricane, and monstrous chunks of rock came crashing down after it. The echoes of that avalanche still rumbled and reverberated in the valley below when the two friends peered out of their cave. They saw the machine. It lay smashed and flattened, nearly broken in half by an enormous boulder that had landed in the middle of its eight floors.

  • That is it! Thank you so much you have made my day :)
    – HJL
    Aug 16, 2022 at 18:36
  • 1
    @HJL Please will you click the tick mark to the left of my answer to mark it as accepted. Thanks :-) Aug 16, 2022 at 19:28

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