How did Sherlock survive the fall?
January 20, 2012
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One of my close literary friends has asked me to account for my theory that Sherlock, in the recent BBC adaptation, survived the fall from the building at the end of episode 2/3. This arose from a conversation on Facebook, in which I used the phrase “some mechanical means” to describe Sherlock’s descent.
The main reason why I said, “some mechanical means” is because I used to work at an engineering establishment, where any given problem would usually prompt more than one solution. Hence, I perceive this not as the answer to the question, “How could he have done it?” but rather, “How could he best have done it?”
These are the possibilities as I see them.
- String or wire. He jumped off, but his descent was slowed by friction with a piece of string or wire. Why didn’t we see the wire? Because it was thin. How did he manage the jolt of kinetic energy at the end of such a descent? A piece of metal folded into a concertina, which unfolded and absorbed the energy at the bottom of the descent.
- Induction. Sherlock had previously arranged for an electric circuit carrying a large current (possibly including low-temperature super-conductors) to be set up in the building. Before he jumped off, he made sure he was wearing a jacket lined with coils of copper wire. The comparatively large eddy currents resulting from this arrangement set up a magnetic interaction which slowed Sherlock’s descent considerably.
- He jumped onto the top of the passing double-decker bus.
- He jumped into the back of the passing dump truck.
- Free fall, with impact buffer. He jumped, but landed on top of cardboard boxes or something. Whatever it was must have been taken away immediately after by some pre-arranged agent, because it was not evident after the apparent death.
- Parachute. This would have had to open very high up for no-one to have noticed it. Something creating drag or upward force above Sherlock’s body is physically equivalent to item 1 in this list.
- Updraught. Sherlock had previously hired somebody to drive past with a set of equipment which blew air upwards with considerable force. (The dump truck, perhaps?)
- Gravity. As the egregious Mr Dickens, my ‘A’ level Applied Maths teacher once said, “if you had a Cox’s Orange Pippin of tremendous density…” Sherlock had obtained a sample of neutron matter which exerted such a strong gravitational field in opposition to the Earth’s field that he could fall unharmed.
- Moral superiority. He internalised the teachings of Nietzsche, and came to the conclusion: “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, even if it does kill me”.
Whichever way you slice it, Molly Hooper comes into it somehow.