Physicist Uses Math, Writes Paper, To Beat Traffic Ticket

What would you do to get out of a traffic ticket, if you were convinced you were innocent? Probably not as much as Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist based at the University of California San Diego, who was fined for (purportedly) running a stop sign. In a paper titled “Proof of Innocence,” Krioukov argues three physical phenomena combined at just the right time and misled the officer:

We show that if a car stops at a stop sign, an observer, e.g., a police ocer, located at a certain distance perpendicular to the car trajectory, must have an illusion that the car does not stop, if the following three conditions are satis ed: (1) the observer measures not the linear but angular speed of the car; (2) the car decelerates and subsequently accelerates relatively fast; and (3) there is a short-time obstruction of the observer’s view of the car by an external object, e.g., another car, at the moment when both cars are near the stop sign.

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. 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. A sneeze caused Krioukov to slam on the brakes hard as he approached the stop sign. With a potential car blocking the officer’s view for a split second, it appeared as though Krioukov never slowed down.

This mathematical description swayed the judge (or maybe he was simply impressed by Krioukov dedication in writing a paper on this personal incident), and the case was dismissed. What a way to get out of paying a traffic ticket!


(via Physics Central)