For those not familiar, Murphy’s Law states: “Anything that can go wrong will.”
Predecessors to Murphy’s Law
Pessimists have existed long before the Murphy whose name today graces this fundamental law. One of the earliest instances of this “law” being stated explicitly happened in 1877 where Alfred Holt is believed to have said in an address to the Institution of Civil Engineers:
By 1908, it had become a well-loved maxim among magicians as well, as explained by Nevil Maskelyne in The Magic Circular:
And reiterated by Adam Hull Shirk in The Sphinx in 1928:
Later, in 1941 the great pessimist and antiauthoritarian George Orwell wrote in his diaries:
The Eponymous Murphy
In 1949, scientists and engineers at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert in California:
With some opining that the human body could only withstand 18Gs, no people were used during the first 35 test runs:
The original equipment used to measure force was found to be unreliable, so the Air Force called in Captain Edward A. Murphy, Jr., a former pilot and aerospace engineer, to create and oversee the installation of new senors. However, after a trial run with Chim-Chim, the “strain gauges” showed no readings. Upon inspection, Captain Murphy blamed the technicians who installed them, saying:
Eventually, someone fixed the gauges, and a human volunteer, Colonel John Paul Stapp, participated in several runs, ultimately reaching the force of 46.2Gs, shattering the previously thought limit for humans of 18Gs.
According to sources, the combination of the strain gauge test failure and Murphy’s gibe was irresistible to the quick-witted research crew. Although some disagree, the majority identify the brave Colonel as the person who named the aphorism after the unlucky Murphy:
As a corollary, Stapp had his own aphorism, which stated:
This list of alternative and specialized applications of the fundamental law of pessimism has been blatantly stolen gratefully borrowed from Murphy’s Laws:
- If anything can go wrong it will at the most inopportune time.
- The greater the value of the rug, the greater the probability that the cat will throw up on it.
- If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong (or the one to go wrong first).
- The other line always moves faster.
- The chance of the buttered side of the bread falling face down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.
- In any hierarchy, each individual rises to his own level of incompetence, and then remains there. (Also known as the “Peter Principle”)
- Anything dropped in the bathroom will fall in the toilet.
- After you bought a replacement for something you’ve lost and searched for everywhere, you’ll find the original.
- The best golf shots happen when you are alone (and the worst when playing with someone you want to impress).
- Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
- Traffic is inversely proportional to how late you are or are going to be.
- A falling object will always land where it can do the most damage.
- The probability of being observed is directly proportional to the stupidity of one’s actions.
- You will always find something in the last place you look.
- Whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.
Melissa has a B.A. and a J.D. but law is a vicious business, so she writes.
Feature Image Courtesy: Myfrankspot