A 4-Page Paper Arguing Your Case With Physics Will Get You Out Of A Ticket

Trying to argue your way out of a traffic ticket is one thing. But presenting a four-page letter that presents the physical impossibility of the situation described in said ticket is something that could only be done by an expert physicist. So if you don’t want to pay $400 and happen to know such a person, it might turn out handy.

A UCSD physicist used his knowledge of angular and linear motion in a paper he prepared for the judge presiding over his traffic ticket. In it, he argued and was able to prove his innocence, explaining that the issuing officer didn’t really see what he “thought” he saw, according to the laws of physics, says NBC San Diego.

“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,” said the physicist.

Now, don’t run out trying to use the physics defense in any old situation. The physicist says events happened to combine perfectly for his argument to hold up and ultimately get him out of the ticket.

When asked if he really did stop at that stop sign, he claims, “Of course.”

Man Uses Physics to Fight Traffic Ticket [NBC San Diego]


Edit Your Comment

  1. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    …naturally, according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, in order to determine something’s position, you have to relinquish any measurements on it’s direction or velocity.

    Hence, at the point in time when you identified that the car was precisely at the stop line, you can’t possibly show any knowledge that it was moving at all.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      What about the poor cat?

      • huadpe says:

        Heisenberg, not Schrodinger!

        • Cat says:

          Clever people like me, who talk loudly in restaurants, see this as a deliberate ambiguity, a plea for understanding in a mechanized world. The points are frozen, the beast is dead. What is the difference? What indeed is the point? The point is frozen, the beast is late out of Paddington. The point is taken. If La Fontaine’s elk would spurn Tom Jones the engine must be our head, the dining car our oesophagus, the guard’s van our left lung, the cattle truck our shins, the first-class compartment the piece of skin at the nape of the neck and the level crossing an electric elk called Simon. The clarity is devastating. But where is the ambiguity? It’s over there in a box. Shunt is saying the 8.15 from Gillingham when in reality he means the 8.13 from Gillingham. The train is the same only the time is altered. Ecce homo, ergo elk. La Fontaine knew his sister and knew her bloody well. The point is taken, the beast is moulting, the fluff gets up your nose. The illusion is complete; it is reality, the reality is illusion and the ambiguity is the only truth. But is the truth, as Hitchcock observes, in the box? No there isn’t room, the ambiguity has put on weight. The point is taken, the elk is dead, the beast stops at Swindon, Chabrol stops at nothing, I’m having treatment and La Fontaine can get knotted.

    • Jager says:

      Hate to be “that guy,” but velocity implies direction. Should be either speed and direction or just velocity.

    • Mulysa says:

      My p chem professor said he’d give extra credit to anybody who successfully used Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to get out of a speeding ticket.
      Especially since the uncertainty is so very low that the argument doesn’t work.

  2. Worstdaysinceyesterday says:


  3. huadpe says:

    My guess is that the judge just didn’t want to bother with it. It’s not like the traffic court prosecutor is going to make any sort of a coherent argument on the substance of the letter, and it’s not worth the time/cost to find an expert to contradict him.

  4. Hi_Hello says:

    i wish I can read the paper.

    my friend got a ticket for not stopping but he stopped. right at the line, but with cars parked at the corner, the cop couldn’t see. only saw him creeping pass the intersection. He was creepy because he couldn’t get a clear for off the other cars because of the cars parked at the corner.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    The physicist threw tons of manure into the paper in the hope that something beautiful would grow out of it, and it looks like it did.

  6. alaron says:
  7. Tim says:

    You could probably get out of a lot of traffic tickets using Zeno’s dichotomy paradox.

    • PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

      The problem is, you’d get another ticket for not stopping for the police officer (since you’d never get to your destination where you stopped).

    • I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

      I prefer the Chewbacca defense.

  8. archangel09 says:

    For the lazy: (remove spaces)

    http:// arxiv.org /pdf/ 1204.0162v1. pdf

  9. dangermike says:

    This sounds like it might be almost as effective as my preferred method, to insist upon performing a field sobriety test on the officer attempting to issue the ticket.

  10. DrRonster says:

    I’ve beaten every speeding ticket that I’ve gotton since 1986. Necessity of speed.

  11. jsimpson says:

    “Your Honor, While traveling Northbound, I approached the stop sign in question. After turning right, I was traveling Eastbound. Therefore, I submit that in order to travel Eastbound, I would have had to STOP going Northbound. So yes, I did stop at the stop sign.”

  12. Caffinehog says:

    Heisenberg gets pulled over by a cop. The cop comes up to the window and asks, “Do you know how fast you were going?” Heisenberg responds, “No, but I knew exactly where I was!”

  13. BurtReynolds says:

    I recall reading a similar story a few years back, where someone (I want to say in Europe) got a ticket for going like 110 in a Nissan Sentra. He presented a detailed argument explaining that his Nissan Sentra would basically need to be going downhill with a tailwind for a long stretch of straight road in order to approach that speed, and therefore it is impossible that he was going that fast. I believe he won the day.

  14. tvh2k says:

    tl;dr: If a car is blocking a police officer’s view of yours during the brief moment when you come to a full stop, and continues to block it until after you start accelerating once again, he will be unable to determine if you actually stopped.

  15. Bagumpity says:

    I can do the same thing with Ancient Greek philosophy:

    1. Either the Universe is deterministic, or it is random.

    2. If the Universe is deterministic, all events are foreordained from the beginning of time. Therefore, I have no control over any events, much less the ones in question, whether they led to my speeding or not. It is manifestly unjust to punish a man for events over which he has no control. Therefore, I cannot be convicted of this, or any other, crime.

    3.If the Universe is random, no link exists between cause and effect. Events follow other events by mere chance. Therefore, I have no control over any events, much less the ones in question, whether they led to my speeding or not. It is manifestly unjust to punish a man for events over which he has no control. Therefore, I cannot be convicted of this, or any other, crime.

    4. The prosecuting attorney will likely argue that I, and every other human, possess a faculty known as “free will.” This amounts to a religious belief, in that the supposed faculty exists outside of physics and in the realm of a “soul” or “mind.” And while I respect my learned colleague’s right to believe in the supernatural, convicting me of a crime would be a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

    The defense rests.