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What is the name and author of the science fiction story about beings who live in the center of the earth, are very dense and find our kind of life to be like clouds and ephemeral? These dense beings live a long time. One of them, a scientist, detects patterns in these "clouds" that are us humans. He sees agentic action in these clouds. He mentions this to a friend who asks him how long these patterns persist. He says only a 100 years or less. The friend says they are too ephemeral to have any significance as these beings live very long times.

I have asked several AI (ChatGPT, Gemini) this question, then looked at their responses and all of them have been wrong stories and authors. I have also searched the Science Fiction and Fantasy database and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database. I have also looked at the Internet Archive for the stories suggested by the AIs to verify that they are not the story I am looking for. I read this story a long time ago (70s, 80s) but can't remember the title or the author. It was a short story in an anthology or perhaps Analog Magazine.

Stories provided by AI chatgpt, claude 3.5, gemini and Ruled out:

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1864)
At the Earth's Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1922)
"Surface Tension" by James Blish.
"The Dancing Men of the Mesozoic" by John Varley.
"The Hole Man" by Larry Niven
"The Planck Dive" by Greg Egan
"The Cosmic Rape" (also known as "To Marry Medusa") by Theodore Sturgeon.
"The Road Not Taken" by Harry Turtledove
 "The Monster" by A.E. van Vogt
"The Menace from Earth's Center" by Robert Abernathy
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" by Harry Bates
"The Voice of the Lobster" by Henry Kuttner
"A Martian Odyssey" by Stanley G. Weinbaum
"The Ultimate Earth" by Jack Williamson
"The Diamond Maker" by H.G. Wells
"A Subway Named Mobius" by A. J. Deutsch
"The Sadness of the Executioner" by Fritz Leiber.
"Old Hundredth" by Brian Aldiss
"Old Faithful" by Raymond Z. Gallun.
"The Planeteers" by John W. Campbell Jr.
"The Aberrant Athlete" by Henry Kuttner
The Star Stealers" by Edmond Hamilton
“The Microscopic Giants” by Paul Ernst
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  • Pretty dense indeed, if they cannot tell apart a cloud and Earth soil (sorry, couldn't resist). Welcome to sf.SE, by the way. Commented Jul 2 at 20:24
  • Added list pf stories ruled out in the question above.
    – systemsguy
    Commented Jul 3 at 2:08
  • Was it definitely set on Earth? Was it a short story, or a novel? FWIW, Placet is a Crazy Place by Fredric Brown has super-dense "birds" (as a minor plot element), but they don't appear to be intelligent.
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Jul 3 at 2:21
  • Yes, it was a short story and it was ostensibly on earth. Although I am not sure that that was definitely specified in the story.
    – systemsguy
    Commented Jul 3 at 3:06
  • 1
    @user14111 "The Fires Within" is written from the human rather than deeper down perspective, after the fact.
    – Ash
    Commented Jul 3 at 6:55

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