Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Laws Of Physics Do Not Apply Here?

I was casually reading this article, which started out to be rather amusing. But then, it got VERY annoying especially when the ignorant judge started to give out his opinion.

A couple in England was contesting a speeding ticket when the wife was caught using a speed camera. Her husband, who happened to be a physicist, challenged the speeding ticket because the speed camera wasn't used according to instruction.

Now I have no idea who's right or who's wrong here, and this isn't really the focus of this blog post. However, what caused my jaw to drop was what the judge then said.

West Yorkshire Casualty Reduction Partnership spokesman, Philip Gwynne, said Mr Fielden appeared to be "defending his wife's honour" by "using the laws of physics."

He said: "However, the judge has ruled that in speeding cases it is the law of the land that matters – not the law of physics.

"Maybe it's time that we left physics in the classroom and allowed cameras to get on with their job which is to reduce injury and death on our roads and encourage people to drive within the speed limits," he continued.

Er... hello? Didn't the camera actually used physics to measure a vehicle's speed in the first place? And what's with confining physics to only "in the classroom" nonsense? Is he out of his mind making such a silly statement like that?

I hate to say this, but I shouldn't be shocked by such stupidity anymore. However, it also a reflection on those in physics to evaluate on whether we have done enough to emphasize the relevance of physics in our world today. Too often, big news on physics have come from very esoteric areas of physics. This includes high energy physics (the LHC is in the new a lot lately), astrophysics, etc., all of which are definitely important, but have a major disconnect between the subject area and what the general public are familiar with. They don't see how such things are applicable in their daily lives, and so have the impression that physics only deals with things that they don't use. They forget that their basic electronics, and most of their modern conveniences, came out of discoveries in physics, especially solid state/condensed matter physics.

Confining physics to the classroom is the last thing we want to do.


EDIT/UPDATE: There's a bit of confusion on my part on who said that idiotic passage that I quoted from the news article. From this report, it appears that it is the person by the name of

Philip Gwynne, a spokesman for West Yorkshire Casualty Reduction Partnership, which runs the camera, said: "Maybe it's time we left the physics in the classroom. The cameras are there to encourage people to drive safely."

If this is true, than I apologize to the presiding judge, and this Philip Gwynne character has a serious problem. The "West Yorkshire Casualty Reduction Partnership" can't possibly want someone this ignorant to be their spokesman..... can they?



Rocket Stegosaurus said...

I am reminded of the episode of "Garfield and Friends" where one of the characters is concerned that the Law of Gravity may be repealed. ...I also recall the term "grabbity" being used.

Anonymous said...

The court found that he was right all along - the manufacturer's instructions were not followed.

Unfortunately it seems that as the law stands the instructions don't have to be followed - which rather begs the question, so what should be followed then?

ZapperZ said...

Thanks for the update. It makes it even more puzzling.

If the instructions are not followed, you could get an erroneous result. So the "speeding" reading may not be valid. Anyone who has done any kind of measurement should know this. If you did not zero your instrument properly, you get the wrong measurement, for example.

So if the reading is faulty, it can't be used. So there is no case!