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Physicist uses mathematical proof to avoid traffic ticket

After presenting a paper called “The Proof of Innocence,” California physicist gets let off the hook

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A California physicist recently fought the law when he was issued a traffic citation for running a stop sign. And with the help of a mathematical paper, the physicist argued his way out of the fine.

The officer who issued the ticket could have hardly imagined he pulled over someone willing to scientifically prove his innocence. But that was exactly what UC San Diego physicist Dmitri Krioukov did when he authored “The Proof of Innocence,” a rather detailed explanation of how an officer could have seen him run a stop sign when he actually halted.

As one might expect, Krioukov’s paper is a bit complicated. His final conclusion is that it wasn’t the officer’s fault, but ultimately he or she was wrong because “their perception of reality did not properly reflect reality.”

The basis of his argument is that three coincidences happened at the same time to affect the officer’s judgment.

Krioukov wrote: “[In this paper], we show that if a car stops at a stop sign, an observer, e.g., a police officer, 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 satisfied: (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 presenting his argument in court, Krioukov used graphs explain how another vehicle blocked the traffic officer’s view, causing said officer to make an honest mistake.

It’s difficult to say how useful Krioukov’s detailed explanation was in relieving him of the fine. Nevertheless, “The Proof of Innocence” has since been published and even received a $400 prize, according to tech website Ars Technica.