Science and Math Nerds Do a Fun Thought Experiment After MTA's Bus Lane Enforcement Ad

Sometimes a seemingly pointless question might enhance your creative problem-solving abilities.
Ali Halit Diker

The Reddit user quotethehero turned a simple infographic GIF, prepared by The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New York City’s Department of Transportation, to a fun thought experiment. The GIF's purpose was to show how new enforcement will function but oddly resembled a bus that's vaporizing the truck in front of it.

Anyone who has been in NYC would probably rant about the car traffic, as well as how crowded the sidewalks are.

The city's traffic is also a great plot device for movie scriptwriters to create tension and suspense, especially in disaster movies such as Godzilla (1998), 2012 (2009) World War Z (2013), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), etc.

Maybe this choice is a reflection of how traffic causes stress, a feeling of being trapped between the monstrous buildings in real life.


Living in a city which ranks in the 40th place in INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard, among 200 cities in 38 countries, can be tough. You can barely make it on time if the lane of your bus is not blocked by another car, truck, or motorcycle.

MTA is aiming to speed up buses

MTA announced that vehicles which are using bus lanes would be photographed starting from October 7, in a press release on September 23. The enforcement aims to increase the bus speeds on M15 Select Bus Service routes.

The release says, "cameras are installed on vehicles serving the M15 Select Bus Service route to begin capturing violations beginning October 7." Also, NYCT Buses shared a GIF which demonstrates how these cameras work --which led to tons of humorous comments on Twitter.

They're vaporizing cameras

The GIF looks like the bus is shooting some kind of laser to erase the truck from existence.

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Or the flash erases the memory of... the truck?

A few tweets suggested that the bus has vaporizing cameras.

While some people were joking on Twitter, quotethehero posted the GIF to  theydidthemath Subreddit and started a fun thought experiment for engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and science and math nerds, with the question:

"How strong would a light source need to be to vaporize a bus?"

You will need 43,700,000 standard 100-Watt bulbs 

The most upvoted answer came from Mr_Cleary. The Redditor made some assumptions for simplicity and calculated that it would take approximately 43,700,000 standard 100-Watt bulbs to vaporize the truck.

That requires a lot of energy.

Another Reddit user, crappyroads, claimed that it would take about 5 Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plants, which has the largest capacity of power production in the world, to create that much power.

Of course, solving this problem is not that easy nor straightforward. There are lots of other complications and also lots of assumptions. For example, one of the users points out that the calculation ignores energy absorption. Another user reminds us of the iron gas, which will be released because of the reaction, and the impact of the explosion it will create.

What would be your take on this creative question?

Most of the thought experiments like these might seem a little pointless, but they will definitely improve problem-solving abilities. Also, the collective work of the Redditors involved is impressive.

The post is a reminder that creativity has no limits, and even an absurd question inspired by a simple infographic might add new perspectives to your approaches on various challenges.

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