The Big Bounce
by Walter S. Tevis

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Galaxy, February 1958

collected in —
Far From Home

May 2008


A ball that gains momentum on each bounce ....

In a nutshell — or in this instance, a blob of experimental pencil-eraser rolled into a golf ball — that's the premise of this science-fiction short story, "The Big Bounce" by Walter S. Tevis. It's always seemed to me that regardless of crediting, this story may have been the most immediate progenitor of the movie The Absent-Minded Professor

While much narrower in focus, "The Big Bounce" gives more scientific thought to the phenomenon than does the movie, and comes to strikingly different results.

He opened the box and I could see that it was packed with some kind of batting. He fished in this and withdrew a gray ball about the size of a golfball and set the box on the mantel. ...

Then he squatted down, held the ball about a half-inch from the floor, dropped it.

It bounced, naturally enough. Then it bounced again. And again. Only this was not natural, for on the second bounce the ball went higher in the air than on the first, and on the third bounce higher still.

A neat little problem in physics, and not incidentally also in the handling of unintended consequences of scientific breakthroughs. A fun and memorable story.


© 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

Project Gutenberg online versions:
"The Big Bounce" — all formats

R.W. Franson's review of
The Queen's Gambit
by Walter Tevis

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