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Research paper saves UCSD scientist from $400 traffic fine

April 18, 2012 |  2:12 pm

Research paper saves UCSD scientist from $400 traffic fine

Thanks to a “very unusual combination of circumstances” and a quick set of calculations, a UC San Diego scientist successfully fought a $400 traffic ticket with a four-page research paper.

Dmitri Krioukov, a senior research scientist at UCSD, successfully appealed his failure-to-stop ticket using a physics and math argument that ultimately swayed a San Diego judge.

In the paper, entitled “The Proof of Innocence,” Krioukov offered a series of equations and graphs to show that it was physically impossible for him to have broken the law, as an officer claimed.

The judge was “very, very smart,” Krioukov told The Times. “She got my point, I think, very precisely.” 

Krioukov compared the problem to the way a person sees a train approaching from the platform and thinks it is moving slowly, when in fact it is barreling down the track. Using math and physics, Krioukov determined that a car moving at a constant speed can appear to move in the same way as a car that is moving fast but stops for a short time and then accelerates again.

In other words, a car that appears to be moving at a constant speed through a stop sign could have actually stopped at the stop sign, before speeding up again.

These calculations, combined with a UCSD building that obstructed the officer’s view of the incident, created what  Krioukov diplomatically wrote was an “unfortunate coincidence” in which the officer’s “perception of reality did not properly reflect reality.”

In his interview with The Times, he called the calculations “very simple,” adding that this is “particular physics and math that you can study in high school.”

“All you need to know is classical mechanics and a little bit of geometry,”  Krioukov said.

He said the calculations took him about five to 10 minutes but writing the paper took a few hours. Krioukov joked that it was much faster and less expensive to write up the paper and defend himself than to find and pay for a lawyer.

Since the news broke last week, Krioukov has posted his paper online for any motorists who find themselves wrongly accused of failing to stop.

The paper’s abstract reads: “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.”  


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Photo: The intersection of Motor Avenue and Cheviot Drive in Cheviot Hills in 2005. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times