Pâté de Foie Gras (short story)
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|"Pâté de Foie Gras"|
|Genre(s)||science fiction short story|
|Published in||Astounding Science Fiction|
|Publisher||Street & Smith|
|Publication date||September 1956|
Like the classic The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline, Pâté de Foie Gras is a scientific spoof article. In the story, a Department of Agriculture employee tells of the discovery on a farm in Texas of a goose that actually lays golden eggs and of the attempts to solve its mystery.
The story describes how scientists tried to solve the mystery and ends with a dilemma: in order to discover how the goose is doing all this, it will be necessary to dissect it; but there is only one goose. Since the goose's eggs contain a lot of gold, it cannot reproduce due to a heavy-metal poisoning. The narrator decides to contact Asimov and have him write up the story, soliciting the readers of Astounding for ideas.
In a commentary on the story, Asimov wrote that it was his intention for there to be a single solution discoverable by the reader. The hint dropped in the story is the description of an experiment in which the goose's gold production goes up when it is given water enriched with oxygen-18, which would indicate a possible source of the gold produced. This was expected to imply that if the goose is maintained in a closed environment, it will convert all the oxygen-18 to gold, while still being able to breathe the predominant oxygen nuclide (oxygen-16). It will excrete all the gold in its eggs, at which point it can be expected to start producing fertile eggs.
It was first published in the September 1956 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It appeared in Asimov's 1957 science essay collection Only a Trillion, in his 1968 short story collection Asimov's Mysteries, and in The Complete Stories, Vol. 2. It also appeared in the anthology Where Do We Go from Here? edited by Asimov and in The Edge of Tomorrow.