Physicist Uses Mathematics To Beat $400 Traffic Ticket

Remember when you were back in school and questioned how the math you were learning would help you in the “real world”?

Well, one physicist from the University of California-San Diego, used his mathematics and science background to convince a judge that the police had erred when they issued him a $400 ticket for failing to make a complete stop at a stop sign.

According to the Physics Buzz Blog, Dmitri Krioukov, after receiving a traffic ticket for allegedly blowing the stop sign, he wrote a four page paper outlining the three physical phenomena which misled the cops to “believe” he had broken the law.

Here’s how Physics Buzz breaks it down.

When Krioukov drove toward the stop sign the police officer was approximating Krioukov’s angular velocity instead of his linear velocity. This happens when we try to estimate the speed of a passing object, and the effect is more pronounced for faster objects.

Trains, for instance, appear to be moving very slowly when they are far away, but they speed past when they finally reach us. Despite these two different observations at different distances, the train maintains a roughly constant velocity throughout its trip.

In Krioukov’s case, the police cruiser was situated about 100 feet away from a perpendicular intersection with a stop sign. Consequently, a car approaching the intersection with constant linear velocity will rapidly increase in angular velocity from the police officer’s perspective.

Similarly, if a car approaches the stop sign with constant velocity but brakes quickly before reaching the sign, the angular velocity will rapidly increase before stopping momentarily. To illustrate this point, Krioukov created two graphs: one for the case of constant linear velocity through a stop sign (illegal) and another for a quick stop at the sign before accelerating back up to speed (legal).

Well, Krioukov’s defense seemed to work as both the cop and the judge bought it and Krioukov didn’t have to pay the hefty $400 fine.

You can read full traffic ticket defense here and read the headache inducing technical breakdown of his paper at Physics Buzz, entitled “Physicist Uses Math to Beat Traffic Ticket.”

4 Responses to Physicist Uses Mathematics To Beat $400 Traffic Ticket

  1. Pete says:

    In Chicago, the mouth breather who heard the appeal would have told him to pay it anyway, and found some reason to double his fine.

  2. Michael says:

    I would just testify that I saw the wheels continue to rotate as the driver continued through the stop sign and never came to a full stop, which is required in California. To the best of my knowledge though, I never cited a physics professor.

  3. David says:

    ^ no one stops at stop signs in california friend, not even the police. hence the phrase california stop. the cop just had to make quota is all that was really going on here. tack one up for science.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>