Physicist beats traffic ticket with science paper

Physicist beats traffic ticket with science paper

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Science does matter. That was the opinion of a California judge after a UC San Diego college professor presented a scientific defense.

Dmitri Krioukov, a Russian researcher and Internet data analysis professor, wrote a four-page rebuttal paper explaining how the laws of physics distorted the cop's perception, causing him to misperceive the good professor rolling through a stop sign.

You have to meet three conditions, as the paper outlines: "(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."

Tellingly called "The Proof of Innocence," the paper even had charts showing how physics prevented the cop from correctly evaluating what he saw. The paper explained the differences between linear and angular motion and demonstrated how the professor theoretically came to a complete stop. He then reaccelerated — from between 22 mph and 0 mph and then from 0 mph to 22 mph — all in a three-second span of time.

Physicist beats traffic ticket with science paper

During those three seconds, the professor was passed by another vehicle that shielded the cop’s vision and prevented him from adequately seeing what actually happened before he pulled him over.

The judge probably didn’t completely buy the professors story, but his presentation was clear and understandable enough to cause the judge to doubt the cop’s simple explanation. The judge declared the professor innocent and the $400 fine was dismissed.

Now the professor has become a cause célèbre in physics and mathematics circles and is overwhelmed with people giving him kudos and asking for his help in beating other traffic tickets.

The professor’s defense paper is available for download as a PDF online. After reading this story, you may want to brush up on your math and science abilities.

Mel Borup Chandler lives in California. His E-mail address is

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