Murphys Law

Dennis Faas's picture

Murphy's law (also known as Finagle's law or Sod's law) is a popular adage in Western culture, which broadly states that things will go wrong in any given situation.

It is most commonly formulated as "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." In American culture the law was named after Major Edward A. Murphy, Jr., a development engineer working for a brief time on rocket sled experiments done by the United States Air Force in 1949.

Murphy's Law: Variations

Murphy's law has taken on many different formulations. In 1952, the proverb was phrased "Anything That Can Possibly Go Wrong, Does" in the epigraph of John Sack's The Butcher: The Ascent of Yerupaja. Possibly the earliest printed use of Murphy's name in connection with the law is in Lloyd Mallan's 1955 book, Men, Rockets and Space Rats: "Colonel Stapp's favorite takeoff on sober scientific laws -- Murphy's Law, Stapp calls it -- 'Everything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong'."

Murphy's Law: Examples

  • A slice of buttered bread will, when dropped, always land butter-side down.  
  • Buses take ages to arrive, but when they do they always arrive in sets of three.  
  • When graphing the graph paper is always one square too small for the perfect scale.  
  • When caught in a traffic jam, the lane that you are in will always be the slowest to move.  
  • Nothing is as easy as it looks.  
  • Everything takes longer than you think.  
  • Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  
  • 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.  
  • If something simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.  
  • If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which a procedure can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.  
  • Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.  
  • If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.  
  • Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.  
  • It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.  
  • Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.  
  • Every solution breeds new problems.  
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.  
  • A Smith and Wesson beats four aces.  
  • Junk will grow to fill the available closet space.

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