Friday, March 16, 2007

Day 45: Laws that rule the universe – Murphy’s Law

Most people around the world have become familiar with the concepts, variations and circumvolutions of Murphy’s Law, but some of us have forgotten the essence of it.

According to Wikipedia (long life Wiki!) entry about Murphy’s Law, in its most summarized form, it can be stated as follows:

“Things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance.”


“If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way.”

Two attitudes can be taken out from this: either there’s no way to get things right, no matter what you do (and you might as well put an end to your misery right away), or there’s always a way to deal with disaster if you take all the possibilities into account from the very beginning.

This Law has turned into a practical use. For instance: “its spirit embodies the principle of defensive design — anticipating the mistakes the end-user is likely to make…The newer CD-ROM and DVD technologies permit one incorrect orientation — the disc may be inserted upside-down, which is harmless to the disc. A defensive designer knows that if it is possible for the disc to be inserted the wrong way, someone will eventually try it.”

Unfortunately, on the other hand, “if it seemingly is not possible to perform something incorrectly, someone will eventually manage it. This is often expressed as "Make something idiot-proof, and they will build a better idiot".

Another funny fact about the law is that “Murphy's law cannot operate as a subset of something useful; for example: "It will start raining as soon as I start washing my car, except when I wash the car for the purpose of causing rain”. That is, when we consciously try to make the Law operate in our favor, it won’t work, thus creating a paradox.

In my personal experience, Murphy’s Law has proven useful when dealing with the inevitable. Assuming that bad things tend to happen has helped me to deal with them in a more effective and light-hearted way. As we say here: “As soon as the Big Boss takes a business trip, something that requires his immediate attention will explode”. Murphy’s Law.

P.S. If you want to read more about this, check


Jingo said...

Murphy's Law was also a hit drama on the BBC...

The Usual Stuff said...

ja,ja,ja,ja. It was broadcasted in Mexico too, and I had totally forgotten about it. Thanks for the note.

Miao said...

What will go wrong will go wrong. One of the most inexorable truths about the world ever.