Technical Error

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This article is about a science fiction short story. For Technical failure, see Technical failure.
"Technical Error"
Author Arthur C. Clarke
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction
Published in Thrilling Wonder Stories
Publication date 1950

"Technical Error" is a science fiction short story by Arthur C. Clarke. It was published in 1950 under the title "The Reversed Man" and appeared again in Clarke's collection of short stories Reach for Tomorrow, in 1956.[1]


The first power plant to exploit superconductivity has been built and worker Richard Nelson is "laterally inverted" following an accidental short-circuit in the facility. Nelson finds himself wearing his wedding ring on the wrong hand, written texts appear mirror-inverted and coins and his technical diary have been affected. Nelson begins to starve; normal food does not nourish him sufficiently due to its spatial structure. A chemist, Prof. Vandenburg, develops mirror-inverted parallels of substances required by Nelson.

Ralph Hughes, the station's chief physicist, investigates the incident. He discovers that Nelson travels through a fourth spatial dimension. He dismisses the arguments of his curious secretary McPherson, who suspects that Einstein had found this fourth dimension - time. The board of directors induce Nelson to partake in an experiment to “re-invert” him.[2] Moreover, nobody is sure if they could continue to meet all of his unique requirements.

When recreating the short-circuit as closely as possible, there are a number of disquieting questions raised regarding the technical parameters and specifications to meet. Subsequently, Nelson disappears during the second replicated short-circuit and, in a rush to supply power, a generator is brought in. It remains unclear what became of Nelson after his disappearance; his assistant remarked that there didn't seem to be a person in the generator immediately after the accident.[3]

It is only in the early hours of the morning that Hughes realises the generator was put into place on the spot where Nelson disappeared. This leads him to believe that Nelson must have disappeared from time, but could re-materialize in the running generator at any moment. He does not manage to contact the power station in time and, in the distance, above the site of the station, a giant cloud of destruction can be seen rising into the sky.[4]



  1. ^ Clarke 2012, p. IV.
  2. ^ Clarke 2012, p. 21-23.
  3. ^ Clarke 2012, p. 26-32.
  4. ^ Clarke 2012, p. 48-66.