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"The idea I want to push next is that the United States should make Siberia a Protectorate. Pay the Russians off a hundred, two hundred billion dollars and simply run Siberia in an ecologically responsible way."
- Gregory Benford

Poison Space Cloud (Etheric Poison)  
  A deadly cloud of gas large enough to envelop the solar system.  

"You will conceive a bunch of grapes," said he, "which are covered by some infinitesimal but noxious bacillus. The gardener passes it through a disinfecting medium. It may be that he desires his grapes to be cleaner. It may be that he needs space to breed some fresh bacillus less noxious than the last. He dips it into the poison and they are gone. Our Gardener is, in my opinion, about to dip the solar system, and the human bacillus will in an instant be sterilized out of existence."

Again there was silence. It was broken by the high trill of the telephone-bell.

"There is one of our bacilli squeaking for help," said he with a grim smile. "They are beginning to realize that their continued existence is not really one of the necessities of the universe."

He was gone from the room for a minute or two. I remember that none of us spoke in his absence. The situation seemed beyond all words or comments.

"The medical officer of health for Brighton," said he when he returned. "The symptoms are for some reason developing more rapidly upon the sea level. Our seven hundred feet of elevation give us an advantage

"Poison!" I cried.

Then, even as I said the word, my mind flashed back over the whole morning's experiences, past Lord John with his buffalo, past my own hysterical tears, past the outrageous conduct of Professor Summerlee, to the queer happenings in London, the row in the park, the driving of the chauffeur, the quarrel at the oxygen warehouse. Everything fitted suddenly into its place.

"Of course," I cried again. "It is poison. We are all poisoned."

"Exactly," said Challenger, rubbing his hands, "we are all poisoned. Our planet has swum into the poison belt of ether, and is now flying deeper into it at the rate of some millions of miles a minute. Our young friend has expressed the cause of all our troubles and perplexities in a single word, 'poison.'"

Technovelgy from The Poison Belt, by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Published by The Strand Magazine in 1913
Additional resources -

Compare to the galactic damping field from Brain Wave (1953) by Poul Anderson, the more modestly-sized meteoric dust cloud from Secret of the Buried City (1939) by John Russell Fearn and the Concentrated Cosmic Radiation from The Face of the Deep (1942) by Edmond Hamilton.

Similar space clouds have menaced Earth in novels like "Exit Earth" by Martin Caidin and in the short story "Transience" by Arthur C. Clarke. See also The Black Cloud (1957) by Fred Hoyle.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Poison Belt
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur Conan Doyle
  Tech news articles related to The Poison Belt
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur Conan Doyle

Poison Space Cloud (Etheric Poison)-related news articles:
  - Did Giant Space Clouds Cause Mass Extinctions?
  - We Live In A Space Cloud
  - Tunnel Of Magnetized Filaments May Enclose Solar System

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