Do you know this old scifi book?

Many many moons ago when I was a child in the 50’s a read a scifi book about about a man who kept shrinking until he fell between the molecules of a block of lead and as he kept getting smaller he landed on planets in smaller and smaller universes. I know this isn’t much to go on (Hey, I was only 10), but I’m hoping one of you can give me a line on the title of this book. I’d like to read it again! Anyone?

It was a short story, I think the title was “The Man who Shrunk”, and it was in some collection or another edited by Asimov (Before the Golden Age, maybe?). The universe he started off in was one much larger than ours, and he ends up landing in Lake Erie and relaying his tale to a reporter in Cleveland before shrinking yet further.

Correction: The title was “He Who Shrank”, and the author was Henry Hasse. I was right about the book, though.


You rock, Chronos. And the story is even online! Thanks! I shall go read it now.

When you shrink below the size of air molecules, how do you keep breathing?

At that point you start breathing handwavium, instead. In the original story, the same scientific experiment that caused the shrinking also conferred immortality. How, it’s never specified.

FWIW, a similar story is The Girl in the Golden Atom by Ray Cummings. This was published a decade and a half before “He Who Shrank”.

Since you read it before 1974, you almost certainly read it in Adventures in Time and Space. I read it there too.

Handwavium seems to be a very useful substance, suitable for a variety of purposes. I can never find any when I go shopping, though. Maybe it only exists in the SF future.

Because you need a steady supply of unobtanium (the original recipe, not the stuff from that overproduced cartoon) to produce handwavium. That’s why the stuff is so valuable.

According to Asimov’s novelization of Fantastic Voyage, you shrink the air molecules to match.

The original premise (physical constraints of oxygen availability aside) was rather chilling.
Here you have an entity ‘falling’ through space for infinity.
That sounds pretty horrible to me (and it did to the younger Gagundathar who read this oh so many years ago). Imagine, never stopping, never being able to learn more than just a small fraction of the realms that you passed through, never controlling your endless fall through reality.

Of course, this was written before we discovered that the matrix of space/time appears to be bound by a lower limit of granularity.

I wonder how long it would take to ‘fall’ to the Planck limit from here given the speed presented in the story.

This is a very common misconception: We still haven’t learned that. There are about three or four different layers of assumptions that go into that conclusion, any of which could be false.

I loved this story as a child, so much so that when my original childhood copy couldn’t be located, I bought another copy. It’s one of those stories that I couldn’t stop thinking about, and still am reminded of from time to time.

The idea was addressed most scientifically, of course, in an episode of “Mork And Mindy”.