Originally posted by davegage
yeah exactly. there are many ways to do it. for example you could also flick on all three switches, then turn each off sequentially with some period of time inbetween each off flick and then just feel which bulb is hot, hotter, and hottest. so this can easily be extended to any number n of light bulbs theoretically. for example, if you leave one switch ...[text shortened]... h up permanently, then the answer i gave above for n=3 is exactly equivalent to the case of n=5.
You cannot forget human error. First, you must note that a human can only estimate which lightbolb is hotter through its relative heat to another, yet, lightbolbs get too hot for a human to gage its relative heat to another without burning their hands. Second, even if it were cool enough to where the human could keep his hand on the bolb, he is still only estimating (guessing) which one is hotter.
Your theory is correct only as long as n is relatively small.