I remember a story read to me as a child, but remember very few of the actual details. I remember that it involves some type of reaction that has to proceed once it is started, and the reaction involves something coming into contact with water. This means even if water isn't initially present when a scientist starts the reaction, water will somehow become present (ie. a pipe will burst or something). It ends with a major storm (hurricane?) that destroys the lab after the scientists try very hard to prevent water from reaching the experiment. That's all I remember, and some of that may not even be correct. Can anyone identify this story?

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    Hi, welcome to the site. Do you know whether this was a short story or a book? Also, in roughly which year was the story read to you? Sep 6, 2022 at 19:05

2 Answers 2


This is likely one of Isaac Asimov's Thiotimoline stories.

They describe a chemical that dissolves slightly before it is added to water, with the consequences you describe if it ends up not getting added (because the universe acts to restore causality).

The particular story that was read to you was likely Thiotimoline and the Space Age in which the course of a hurricane swerves to hit a college town where researchers had attempted to "fool" thiotimoline. A worried scientist opens the container and adds water, and the hurricane moves away.

The first story in the series is a parody of a scientific paper, and probably not one that would be read to a child, because it's kind of tough going.

User PLL left a helpful comment locating three of the stories online:

Three of the Thiotimoline stories can be read online at the Internet Archive: The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline, The Micropsychiatric Applications of Thiotimoline, and Thiotimoline and the Space Age. (Links copied from Wikipedia.)


It remembers me Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, where the heirs of a scientist are given some ice-nine, which is a form of ice stable at room temperature.

When accidentally the fragment of ice-nine gets in touch with the water of the ocean, it turns all the water of the planet into ice-nine and causes massive storms hitting those who have not yet been turned into ice.

  • This could be a comment but it's not an answer Sep 8, 2022 at 11:16
  • Yeah, that's definitely not quite the story I'm after, but it's still a good one!
    – anonymous
    Sep 9, 2022 at 2:53

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