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New Italian Job ending revealed Friday

'Hang on a minute, lads - I've got a great idea'

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The Royal Society of Chemistry will on Friday announce the winner of its challenge to resolve The Italian Job's cliffhanger ending, the Telegraph reports.

Michael Caine's Charlie Croker and his team are left in a rather tight spot at the film's finale, as their bus teeters over a ravine and they have have to decide whether to save their own skins or attempt to retrieve their golden booty whose weight threatens to take the vehicle over the edge.

Croker's last line is "Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea!" and the RSC last year invited the public to suggest inspired ideas of their own as to how the Brits might safely recover the ingots.

Entrants had to assume that the bus would fall 30 minutes after Croker's closing line, and were asked to provide "calculations, a description of at least 150 words and a diagram" demonstrating their cunning plan. The RSC ruled helicopters offside, and demanded "scientific solutions" to the problem.

The result was more than 2,000 entries, most of which "concerned themselves with tipping the balance of the bus, so that the gold could be retrieved".

The problem here is the "liberties the filmmakers had taken with the laws of physics and economics", with some noting that "the volume of gold in the bus, the value ascribed to it by Noël Coward's Mr Bridger and the weight it would need to be to balance that of the gang could not be reconciled".

Nonetheless, this didn't prevent the submission of "a variety of persuasive - and extremely intricate - techniques for rebalancing the bus simply by redistributing its occupants".

Another possible weight-redistribution line of attack was simply to run the fuel tank down - as noted by Sir Michael Caine when he offered an "unused ending" to the film. He said: "In the coach, I crawl up, switch on the engine and stay there for four hours until all the petrol runs out.

"The van bounces back up, so we can all get out, but then the gold goes over. There are a load of Corsican Mafia at the bottom watching the whole thing with binoculars. They grab the gold, and then the sequel is us chasing it."

However, that was considered a non-starter by those who calculated expending the bus's fuel would simply take too long.

Other practical suggestions were "altering the equilibrium by weighing the bus down with rocks from outside, smashing the bus's windows, or creating a rope from the gang's clothing, either to lasso the gold or find an anchor point on the outside".

Rather more esoteric entries suggested the "construction of a particle accelerator to create a miniature black hole that would pull the gold towards the front of the bus" or using the bus's radio to provoke "a special sequence of probability time-current".

Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the RSC, enthused: "When we put out the call to bring a resolution to Charlie Croker's eternal cliffhanger, we hoped a few bright sparks would provide us with a clever solution.

"We were overwhelmed at the response. Clearly, there are many more armchair scientists out there than people may think, who appreciate the importance and appeal of analysis in science. It just goes to show that the public still engages very positively with science, and that many people love to sit down and tackle a problem, especially if there's a busload of gold to save!"

The RSC has now whittled the submissions down to a shortlist of five, as detailed here. We're rather taken with J McAleese's highly-scientific suggestion that the gang use their cylinders of nitrogen dioxide and hydrogen chloride and their urine to create a gold-dissolving solution to adequately reduce the metal's weight, but reckon computer consultant Jonathan Semple's very simple solution has the problem cracked.

The Telegraph explains: "He noticed from the film that the gang could move further back into the coach - into the driver's cabin - thus making enough downward force for one of them to collect the pallets of gold, one by one.

"At first, he thought about having them stand on the front bumper, but after speaking to a Bedford coach enthusiast, he discovered it was not wide enough. He calculated that, after one or two pallets were moved, it would be safe enough for more than one member of the gang to grab the gold, speeding up the removal. He believes the operation could be completed in 21 minutes." ®

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