Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The Gambler’s Trolley Dilemma


Take a look at the problem in the image above (courtesy of ‘Trolley problem memes’, Facebook).  Such problems are quite wellI known ethical dilemmas which offer the reader with a moral choice of saving one person’s life at the cost of risking others’ lives. There have been huge ethical debates about the best solution to such a dilemma. Here, I present my own take on the situation.

The motivation for solving such unrealistic problems comes from the fact that they target the guilt-factor of the reader and create a false image that it is in the power of the reader to save everyone, when in fact, by following only the options mentioned in the problem, one cannot ascertain the safety of all victims. It depends on chance. So, let us take full advantage of known facts, logic, physics and the benefit of doubt to circumvent this problem and beat the makers at their own game. Of course, I won’t make over-the-top assumptions /benefits of doubt, but will keep them at par with the level of improbable stuff that the author of this problem assumed while creating it, which sounds fair.

Obvious assumption in favor of the problem: You don’t have enough time to do anything but switch the tracks.

Obvious assumption #2: Physics works …

Not-so-obvious assumption #3: This poorly drawn diagram is not drawn to scale and in reality, the turns will be less curved, longer and more spaced out, being at least wider than the size of the trolley. All arguments against this assumption are denied by the benefit of doubt.

Fact #1: The problem explicitly mentions and shows a “trolley”, also known as a tram, which is known to have a max speed of 60kmph or 16.66 m/s (courtsey of Prof. Google). That’s less than twice of Usain Bolt’s running speed, and can also be achieved by a cyclist. So clearly the trolley is not a high speed vehicle.

Fact #2 on railroad-switching taken verbatim from Wikipedia: “Reversing the points under a moving train will almost always derail the train.”

Observation: If you search for train derailment videos on YouTube, or if you play Train Simulator, you’ll find that slow moving trains get derailed in the direction of the railway fault, fall over and stop after just a few meters. Many a times they don’t even topple over, they just skid for a few meters and come to a halt in an awkward position.

Common-sense logical deduction: No legit railroad will ever lead to this kind of a  ridiculous switching point. Hence we can safely assume that the only realistic scenario is one where the setup was built by an evil psycho who is probably addicted to the Saw movie series. He/she probably kidnapped at most 6 people and wants to play this game with you. The trolley is most likely fully empty or is being driven by the villain (which is good, as you’ll see in a moment). It is reasonable to assume that the villain never considered filling up the trolley full of people because from his POV, what’s the point? Also, it is difficult to kidnap so many people. All arguments against this assumption are denied by the benefit of doubt.

Solution: So all you have to do is pull the lever when the trolley is on the switching point junction. This will cause the trolley to get derailed, fall over somewhere between the tracks and stop before it reaches anybody. Hopefully if it were being driven by the psycho, he/she will get a good beating.

Optional move that makes you look awesome: Flip on your shades and walk away like a boss …


BATMAN vs. WOLVERINE – A Battle Between Brains And Brawn, Man and Mutant

 Writer’s Note: All superhero abilities, technology and other superhero paraphernalia mentioned in this story have been taken from relevant sources like the respective superhero’s comics, movies and video games (viz. Batman Arkham series and X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Some elements have been ‘made up’ (but righteously so, and with some careful thought and reasoning) only to fit data which exists, but for which no explanations could be found in the aforementioned sources (like explanations as to how some of the superhero gadgets work)

Given the superhuman genius of Bruce Wayne, if both Wolverine and Batman were given time to prepare for an upcoming death-match, Batman would win hands down. Batman’s genius + money + resources + information gathering skills would mean that he would find out everything there is to know about Wolverine and then come up with the perfect plan to take him down, no matter what Wolverine himself would have planned for Batman. Batman’s superior intellect means that his plans would always be several steps ahead of Wolverine’s. (Of course, we assume that the two combatants do not get assistance from their comrades for preparation or during the fight itself. That would be very unfair because Batman’s friends happen to be the Justice League, which includes Superman and ….. duh, he’s a GOD — end of story…

Hence, let us consider a fair and unbiased scenario. For instance, how about a random encounter, where Batman and Wolverine come face to face for the first time, each having no knowledge about the other … an encounter which leads to a battle between these two fan-favourite superheroes from two different comic universes. That would indeed be an exciting battle to witness ( lol, I’m talking as if these guys actually exist 😛 )

Let us then perform, the comic book analog of a ‘gedankenexperiment’, or a thought-experiment, where we shall pit these two superheroes against each other. The following narrative is my version of what would transpire in this scenario. Although I’m a die-hard Batman fan, I also like Wolverine. So, for the sake of the ‘gedankenexperiment’, I have tried to write a fairly unbiased narrative. If you judge the story critically, then you’re sure to find as many flaws as critics found in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But, for me, the end result is that this is my brainchild, and I had a lot of fun coming up with the story and thinking about the superheroes’ abilities, gadgets etc. and if it were possible to provide explanations for them using real-life science…..

Anyway, here we go:-


Scenario: A small, deserted city street, midnight (because, obviously, the Dark Knight operates at night)

As a result of some unknown, previously transpired events, it so happens (conveniently 😛 ), that Wolverine is walking down one end of a small city street, at night. It seems quite deserted … there appears to be no one around. But Wolverine’s feral sense of smell tells him otherwise (*sniff, sniff*). There’s something lurking in the darkness, above him. Wolverine snarls and slowly unsheathes his adamantium claws. (“Show yourself, bub! I know you’re there – it’s no use hiding!”) Seeing this, Batman immediately uses the X-ray device in the Detective Mode module of his cowl to scan Wolverine inside out, and learns about his claws and adamantium skeleton through the Batcomputer (which is linked wirelessly to his cowl via an antenna inside one of its protruding bat-‘ears’). Detecting micro-droplets of blood on his claws, Batman deduces that Wolverine doesn’t have any slits in his knuckle-pits for the claws to come out through, so they must have to tear through his flesh every time they are drawn out — hence, he must have some kind of accelerated healing factor that rapidly regenerates his flesh after he retracts his claws back in. He scans the region around the base of Wolverine’s claws — his hypothesis is confirmed when he observes it visibly healing. All this takes less than a minute, owing to the genius deductive skills of the World’s Greatest Detective, and to the vast computing power of his Batcomputer,  with the myriad amount of data accumulated over the years in its database. Wolverine, in the meantime, using his keen sense of smell, has managed to pinpoint Batman’s exact location. He is about to leap up to where Batman is hiding.

Batman, seeing that Wolverine has spotted him, decides that it is of no use hiding anymore. He leaps from his vantage point, (from where he had been watching Wolverine) and glides down to the other end of the street. Batman and Wolverine now face each other, standing at opposite ends of the small, empty street. They both look awesome and terrifying in the moonlit night. Logan, the ferocious, muscular mutant, the Wolverine … and Batman, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight.

They identify each other as foe.

From what he has deduced, Batman concludes that it would be disadvantageous to engage in close combat with Wolverine. He decides to keep his distance. His modus operandi would usually have him distract his opponent and then use his ally, the darkness of the night, to sneak up and strike from the enemy’s blind-spot. But earlier, his foe was able to sense him in the dark, which means that Wolverine must have some ability that allows him to do so. Batman decides to scrap the sneak-tactics, and instead prepares for long range offense.

Wolverine’s animal instincts urge him to lunge at his foe, but his centuries worth of battle experience tell him otherwise. It is always wise to let your opponent make the first move and reveal their abilities ….

Batman is privy to this as well, but he makes the first move, because he has a plan. Given no other information, he tries to make a guess as to the particular ability that allowed Wolverine to sense him in the dark. Could it be telepathy? Thermal vision? Sound? Echolocation? Smell? Pheromones? Electroreception? There are so many ways in which an organism can sense the world around it …. Some of the possibilities seem like a long shot … He overlooks super-hearing because he hadn’t been moving or making any noise when he was spotted.  When you can’t exactly figure out the right answer, your best guess is to start with that possibility which is most probable to be true. A good guess then, is some sort of superhuman sense of vision. To test his hypothesis, Batman deploys a flash bang from his utility belt and throws it at Wolverine. If he has guessed correctly, then the heat and light emitted by the flashbang should acutely affect his foe’s visual prowess and severely disorient him. Special light filters snap up, covering the eye-holes of Batman’s cowl, preventing the intense flash of light from blinding him while he continues to observe his foe. But he has misjudged Wolverine, whose superhuman reflexes instantly attenuate his eyes to the dark after the flash is over, so he needs no time to recover.

With his animal attributes, Wolverine pounces and reaches Batman in one leap. Batman barely manages to dodge. Wolverine grabs Batman’s long cape and tugs at him, so that can gut Batman with his claws. Before this can happen, Batman immediately activates his Batsuit’s emergency shocking mechanism (A taser system sewn into the outer layer of the Batsuit atop an insulated internal lining. The shock is delivered over the entirety of Batman’s costume through a micro-thin electrode network dispersal. The mechanism is armed and fired via circuit-wafer controls in his gloves) which gives Wolverine an excellent 200,000 volt shock, made even more effective by Wolverine’s conductive metal skeleton. He then sets himself free from Wolverine’s grip by flinging his lead-weighted, scalloped cape into Wolverine’s face, which stuns him. Batman follows with a perfectly executed Taekwondo spinning hook kick, seamlessly blending the move with the turning motion of the cape-stun, knocking Wolverine back. The tables have turned now, and Batman has the upper hand. Black cape flowing, he springs towards his dazed aggressor. A master of 127 styles of martial arts, Batman knows that a continued barrage of brute-force attacks on the adamantine Wolverine would only result in his own bones being broken. Instead, he performs a shock-wave knockout move (which works by jolting the brain off the inside of the skull, dealing a massive concussion and resulting in instant unconsciousness), especially knowing that it would be twice as effective than usual on Wolverine, given that his skull is made of solid metal. Wolverine drops to the ground, seemingly unconscious….

Batman, having hypothesized about Wolverine’s healing power earlier, realizes that he may eventually heal, so he throws a cryo-pellet (technology taken from Mr. Freeze, which works by releasing upon impact, a super-volatile fluid that covers the subject and evaporates instantly and vigorously, so that the outer layers of the subject’s skin become frostbitten and harden, temporarily turning him/her into a ‘human icicle’) to further incapacitate him, and uses this time to analyse his surroundings, all the while being wary of his foe… Batman knows that if his enemy can heal, then no gadget he has would be strong enough to incapacitate Wolverine for good. He must use his surroundings to defeat his opponent…  Just a little while later, the *crunch* of cracking, frostbitten skin betrays a revived  Wolverine’s attempt to silently attack Batman from behind while was scanning the environment. Recovering much faster than Batman had expected, Wolverine takes him by surprise. He swings his razor metal claws at Batman (“AAAARGH!”)

Having trained himself to reach the peak of human potential, Batman has super-reflexes as well, and manages to dodge the claws. He quickly drops a smoke pellet, switches on detective mode (to see through the smoke) and circles around Wolverine, whilst throwing batarangs at him. Even though he can’t see, Wolverine uses his feral senses of hearing to locate the incoming batarangs, their trajectory, and their source. He easily deflects them with his claws and pinpoints Batman as he is moving through the smoke, without even having to turn his head. His intuitive animal senses allow him to figure out exactly where Batman will be in the next few moments and he lunges in that direction (LIGHTS OUT, BUB!). Caught by surprise, Batman has no time to dodge. Wolverine digs his deadly claws into Batman, and prepares to deliver the deathblow, when he hears the distinctive, rising, high pitched sound of the capacitors in the Batsuit charging up, ready to electrify the suit again. Superhuman reflexes acting, Wolverine packs centuries of battle experience, a mastery over martial arts akin to Batman’s, and his superhuman mutant strength into a powerful front-kick delivered square in Batman’s chest (KA-POW!); and quickly retreats, lest he be electrocuted again. Batman is sent flying through the air, and hits the hard pavement with a thud, skidding several feet before coming to a halt. Wolverine’s kick would’ve killed an average person right away by causing massive internal injuries. The only reason Batman is still alive is because of his Kevlar-thread and carbon-nanotube-fibre reinforced, bulletproof Batsuit. Batman thanks the decision he made (after recovering from his spinal cord injury long ago) to further reinforce his Batsuit with a material to dampen shocks and impact, along with a spinal brace, to protect himself from the kind of abuse dealt to him by the only person to have ever broken him — Bane ….
Also, the motive of his suit’s eye-catching chest symbol seems to have worked well… it lured his enemy into attacking his armour’s strongest point …. And yet, he groans in pain — for the claws have dug deep, and he is bleeding …. Wolverine circles around slowly, looking to strike Batman when he has no chance of electrifying his suit.

But by observing Wolverine’s actions, Batman has managed to deduce his feral senses and superhuman reflexes. Wolverine’s enhanced reflexes were apparent in all his movements thus far, starting with the instant recovery from the flashbang, and in the smoke, when he figured out exactly where Batman would be, before lunging at him. Batman had considered telepathic powers as a possible explanation to Wolverine’s feral senses, but quickly discarded the idea because Wolverine hadn’t used them (if he had them) to ‘attack’ Batman from a distance, even when he had several chances. He had instead chosen to pounce at Batman and attack him from close range. Thermal vision could be ruled out as well, because Wolverine was able to deflect batarangs which were at the same temperature as his surroundings. By the same argument, any other visual prowess could also be neglected because Wolverine had deflected the batarangs in the smoke without even turning to look where they were coming from. He did not have to ‘look’, ergo, he wasn’t using any visual abilities. Electroreception (the ability to sense living organisms via the electric fields of the bio-electric signals in their bodies) was an impossibility because otherwise, Wolverine would have been able to sense the Batsuit’s shocking mechanism being activated, and could have avoided being electrocuted — but that did not happen. Through similar lines of genius deductive reasoning, Batman’s lightning fast chain of thought could eliminate all other improbable possibilities. The list had boiled down to two options — superhuman senses of hearing and smell. It was easy to conclude that Wolverine must possess both. How else could he have sensed Batman’s presence in the dark, when he was perched motionless on his vantage point, in absolute silence; and later, could also sense the incoming batarangs which have no smell?

While Wolverine circles Batman and gets ready to strike again, Batman re-calibrates his Batcall device to emit very powerful ultrasonic sound waves which disorient Wolverine and leave him in a world of unbearable, brain-numbing pain . Batman even tosses in another cryo-pellet to gain time. While Wolverine is disoriented, Batman makes his move. Through the sheer power of his iron will, he endures the pain of his wounds and stands up, as he has done countless times before.

Wolverine takes a while to fight the freeze and the noise. He overcomes the pain with his feral rage, regenerates his frozen skin, and back-traces the sound to its source — Batman. Extremely furious, he pounces towards Batman and slashes and gashes and cuts and slices and stabs and jabs and destroys Batman with a maniacally ferocious paroxysm of tremendous rage and raw power, till the noise stops. Breathing heavily and feeling dazed, he slowly rises and looks down at the pile of mutilated matter that was his enemy.

But something seems to be wrong….

Blinded by the raging sonic pain,  Wolverine failed to notice ……

The Batsuit ….. it’s empty!

The person inside is gone!

He then observes that the suit is covered in a kind of weird, blue gel that seems to be hissing and foaming and growing in size …… Wolverine’s heightened reflexes allow him to react before Batman’s signature explosive gel detonates. With lightning fast agility, he tosses the suit away before it explodes. Unfortunately for him, some of the gel had gotten adhered to his body when he was busy mauling the suit. The blast stuns him and throws him back. (KA-BLAM!). He growls and slowly gets back up to his feet, flesh regenerating rapidly, blood boiling with feral rage. For all of Batman’s legendary awesomeness, his gadgets seem like petty playthings against the indestructible Wolverine…..

He sniffs Batman’s blood on the ground and follows the trail to his new location. He is hiding behind an outdoor distribution-transformer unit. Wolverine silently circles around and gets behind him, unnoticed. Bruce Wayne is treating his wounds using the med-kit in the utility belt he took from the Batsuit. Wolverine grins (“It’s over, bub”) — He lunges forward and is about to strike a bleeding Bruce Wayne from behind when he feels a violent tug and is attracted to the nearby transformer unit. While Wolverine was battling an empty Batsuit, Bruce Wayne had used the acetylene torch from his utility belt to cut open the transformer’s panels, exposing the coiled wire inside, and had, with much ease, converted it into an extremely powerful electromagnet which drew power straight from the main lines. Wolverine gets stuck to the electromagnet (because he has a metal skeleton!) and isn’t able to move a single muscle. (“Alfred, contact the Justice League, and send the Batwing to pick me up … I need you to stitch some nasty gashes I got from a Wolverine …”)

Batman’s brains have overcome Wolverine’s brawn. Wolverine is incapacitated till the next power outage. Bruce Wayne wins — case closed.

— S.R.R


                                      Newton Welcomes You

Hello and welcome to my blog !!!

I am an ardent student of Physics and this blog is my web journal. I created it to store and share all my idiosyncratic ideas, preposterous propositions, thoughtful theories, hybrid hypotheses, exhausting explanations, exhilarating experiments, punctilious proofs, critical conclusions, impactful implications and several other such similarly stimulating scientific stuff !!!

I also created this in the hopes that a web log of my scientific doodles may benefit me (or anybody who’s interested to take a look) in my scientific pursuits (or theirs), in the future. This blog is also for the casual reader, since scientific articles oft make an interesting and stimulating read. Moreover, one gets to learn something new, and every iota of knowledge acquired takes us a small step closer to understanding how the perplexing reality, which we call our universe, works.  That’s a nice perspective, isn’t it? And maybe, somewhere among the bubbling bundle of thoughts which emerge from the mind every moment, lies an idea that has the potential to change the world ?! You never know……

I conclude with a simple, yet enlightening quote by Sir Issac Newton:

“If I have done the public any service, it is due to my patient thought.”

If you like a post, let me know by hitting the ‘like’ button below the post. If you want to follow my blog and get notifications about new posts, hit the ‘follow’ button on the left sidebar. No guarantees regarding regular updates ( ‘follow’ at your own risk! ). See you soon(?)! 😉