Why every math wiz should challenge red light cameras

After his wife gets a ticket, a math tutor's intervention succeeds in proving that the yellow lights were too short at an intersection. Shouldn't all mathematicians now test their local cameras?

Mathematicians do have their uses.

No, not necessarily in helping men decide which woman is, as romantic comedies would have it, the one. Nor, perhaps, in suggesting the precise percentage that a woman should be smarter than a man in order for their relationship to survive the diminution of lust.

But every individual who crunches a number without breaking it can now help us all save money.

Would you please join me in saluting Mike Mogil, a math tutor from Collier County, Fla.? Mogil is clearly that rare man who puts his math where his mouth is. And, indeed, where his wife is.

According to NBC2, when his wife received a ticket, Mogil listened carefully to her explanation that she felt the yellow light was too short. A rare husband, Mogil respected his wife's feelings. In fact, such was his respect that he took a stopwatch to the intersection in question. The speed limit was 45 mph, which meant that, according to the guidelines set by the county, the yellow light ought to be illuminated for 4.5 seconds.

how many are not on long enough? CC Silverline/Flickr

There has been some nationwide consternation as to whether the dark pressures of finance have been brought to bear upon counties to such a degree that light durations have been sneakily curtailed. So Mogil tested this light 15 times in order to achieve statistically significant proof of the potential cause of his wife's anguish.

What he found was that the yellow lights, on average, were on for a mere 3.8 seconds. Some math tutors might have decided the proof was enough. But not Mogil. He went to court, where a special magistrate picked up his wife's ticket, ripped it into many pieces and tossed it out of the courtroom window--metaphorically speaking, that is.

With admirable logic, Mogil told NBC2: "If the county, they are not going to follow their own rules, then why should we be required to follow the rules?"

We haven't, however, reached the amusing part. NBC2 asked the Collier County Transportation Department whether there were other lights that might have been errantly shortened. "I doubt it very seriously, but I will be looking into it," promised the Department's Gene Calvert.

Sadly, he doesn't appear to have taken account of the fact that when a mathematician smells illogic, he will not rest with one mere triumph. Mogil took his stopwatch, his fine eyes, and his spirit of Don Quixote and tested another 65 intersections. Only 7 of those yellow lights were of the appropriate length.

I have the irrationally human idea that the court listened favorably to Mogil's evidence precisely because he is a math wiz. So might I appeal to all those around the world whose mathematical skills have been certified. Please go forth to your local intersections, clutching your watches and your objectivity. This might generate almost as much money as we, the people, gave up to save those dear, speedy bankers on Wall Street.


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