How to escape a $400 traffic ticket with the power of physics

A UCSD physicist was able to argue his way out of a traffic ticket with a bit of audacity and four pages worth of complex mathematics.

Dmitri Krioukov, a senior research scientist at the University of California, San Diego, was issued a ticket for failing to completely stop at a stop sign. Rather than eat the $400 charge, Krioukov decided to fight, producing a four page paper entitled “The Proof of Innocence,” arguing that it was physically impossible for him to violate the law.

It worked.

"The judge was convinced, and the officer was convinced as well," Krioukov told PhysicsCentral.

By emphasizing the difference between linear and angular velocity, Krioukov argued that what the police officer witnessed was actually an illusion inconsistent with reality. It’s the same reason why trains seem to move slowly when they’re far away but then speed up when they’re close -- even when the actual velocity has remained constant.

“Therefore my argument in the court went as follows: that what he saw would be easily confused by the angle of speed of this hypothetical object that failed to stop at the stop sign. And therefore, what he saw did not properly reflect reality, which was completely different," Krioukov told NBC San Diego.

Krioukov has since uploaded his paper online (pdf), describing it in his abstract as “a way to fight your traffic tickets.”

“The paper was awarded a special prize of $400 that the author did not have to pay to the state of California.”

See the full research paper