The endochronic

While Isaac Asimov was working on his doctorate, he was also fiddling with writing science fiction. In 1947, he sent a piece to John W. Campbell at Astounding, and Campbell promised to honor his request for a pseudonym, inasmuch as this sort of dalliance in pulp might jeopardize his progress toward his Ph.D.

The story, “The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline,” published in 1948, was a hit, even though Campbell claimed to have forgotten Asimov’s request and put his real name on it. The concept was audacious: a substance that dissolved in water before actually contacting the water — up to 1.12 seconds, said the spurious research. The explanation was no less, um, astounding: carbon atoms routinely have four bonds, but in thiotimoline, one of those bonds extends into the future, another into the past. There is, of course, an equally spurious source of this compound: the so-far-undiscovered shrub Rosacea Karlsbadensis rufo.

(Asimov later noted with some delight that not only were the university examiners not upset with his digression, one of them threw in a question about it toward the end of his appearance before them.)

Three more thiotimoline stories appeared, the last in 1973. I have to wonder what Asimov, who died in 1992, might have thought had he known that twenty years later, a My Little Pony fanfic writer would give his mystery substance a shoutout:

“Twilight Sparkle, in recognition of your superior intellect, I have a particularly interesting harmonic challenge for you. You will link stars to both Friendship and Magic. Can you do that, flaemmchen?”

“Yes I can, Professor!”

“Now wait just one apple-bucking minute,” [Applejack] said. “What’s with giving her the special challenges?”

“I think I’ll need a special challenge!” said Twilight. “Otherwise, this contest will be over before it starts! Just like when you dissolve thiotimoline in water!”

People ask why I bother with stuff like this. It’s for moments like that.

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