My favorite Vonnegut novel, Cat's Cradle (1963), is just $1.99 as a Kindle ebook today. I read it when I was about 12 or 13, and the idea of "Ice-nine" has intrigued me ever since. Ice-nine, as described in the novel, is a stable form of water that's solid at room temperature, and doesn't melt until it reaches 114.4 °F. If you drop a bit of Ice-nine into a glass of ordinary water, it will work like a seed crystal and turn all the water in the glass into a solid. If you toss an Ice-nine cube into a lake on a warm summer day, the whole lake will freeze over.
Vonnegut came across the idea while working at General Electric:
The author Vonnegut credits the invention of ice-nine to Irving Langmuir, who pioneered the study of thin films and interfaces. While working in the public relations office at General Electric, Vonnegut came across a story of how Langmuir, who won the 1932 Nobel Prize for his work at General Electric, was charged with the responsibility of entertaining the author H. G. Wells, who was visiting the company in the early 1930s. Langmuir is said to have come up with an idea about a form of solid water that was stable at room temperature in the hopes that Wells might be inspired to write a story about it. Apparently, Wells was not inspired and neither he nor Langmuir ever published anything about it. After Langmuir and Wells had died, Vonnegut decided to use the idea in his book Cat's Cradle.