Proof That Murphy Was an Optimist

|

The invaluable Null Hypothesis: The Journal of Unlikely Science reproduces an amusing article about research done for British Gas in 2004 into Sod's Law. On this side of the pond, Sod's Law is more generally known as "Murphy's Law." The research found:

…based on over 1,000 people's experiences, that the original Sod's Law—'anything that can go wrong, will go wrong'—is only half the story. It can now be improved by the use of a new rule—'Things don't just go wrong, they do so at the most annoying moment'.

This explains why your email will most likely crash as you try to send something important, how the chances of your spilling a drink down your clothes are highest just before a date, and why it's a safe bet that your heating will most often break down during a cold snap.

Previous studies have shown that Sod's Law isn't a myth—toast will fall butter-side down, odd socks do breed and string can tie itself in knots. Our formula now allows people to calculate the chances of Sod's Law striking, and thus try to beat it.

Check out their formula here. Some other corollaries are:

HOWE'S LAW. Every man has a scheme which will not work.

ZYMURGY'S FIRST LAW OF EVOLVING SYSTEM DYNAMICS. Once you open a can of worms, the only way to re-can them is to use a larger can.

SKINNER'S CONSTANT. The quantity which must be multiplied by, divided by, added to or subtracted from the answer you get to give the answer you should have got.

LAW OF SELECTIVE GRAVITY. An object will fall so as to do the most damage.

A list of other Sod's Law *corollaries to Sod's Law is available here.

*A Sod's Law attack during editing.

Advertisement

NEXT: Uncle Sam's Medical Marijuana Program

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’m pretty sure Mythbusters busted the buttered toast thing.

  2. What about Zod’s Law: at some point, everyone will kneel before Zod. Even Superman.

  3. I’m pretty sure Mythbusters busted the buttered toast thing.

    True, but they verified that odd socks do breed.

    Also, my heating has never broken down when it was 90 degrees out, it only happens when it is cold.

  4. My string theory:
    Two or more strings (or rope) or a string of sufficient length, shall tangle.

  5. Cole’s Law

    Thinly sliced cabbage

  6. A married man’s law: No matter what it is you are about to do, your wife will tell you to do it micro-seconds before you actually do and think it is her idea as a result.

  7. Levi’s law: No one will open the door until the moment after you pull down you pants.

  8. Pinette’s law

    When something goes only slightly wrong and it happens at just the right moment so that you are hardly even inconvenienced, you make no note of it.
    Thus you perceive that things only go wrong at inopportune moments.

  9. I’m reminded of Rothbard’s Law,

    “…which is that people tend to specialize in what they are worst at. Henry George, for example, is great on everything but land, so therefore he writes about land 90% of the time. Friedman is great except on money, so he concentrates on money.” (*)

  10. Salvius’ Law of Technology and Sexual Perversion

    For anything which does not actually violate the laws of physics: Sooner or later, someone, somewhere, will do it.

  11. Paleo’s Law: reason sucks

  12. I know this is a long shot, but does anybody know where the name for Zymurgy’s First Law of Evolving System Dynamics came from? Zymurgy is the study of fermentation, and other than the fact that beer sometimes comes in cans, I don’t see any connection between zymurgy and opening a can of worms. I would think that “Helminthology’s First Law of Evolving System Dynamics” would make more sense.

  13. Also, my heating has never broken down when it was 90 degrees out, it only happens when it is cold.

    In the same vein, my A/C never broke down when it’s cool, only when it’s 90 degrees.

    An object designed for a purpose (changing the temperature, for example) will only be used when that purpose is needed, i.e. you never run the heater when it’s hot, and things need to be running to break down, so I think it’s safe to say that your heater will never break down on hot days.

  14. robc’s laws of libertarianism:

    1. Everyone agrees with libertarians on something

    2. No two libertarians agree about anything.

  15. Taktix,

    I always find my glasses the last place I look.

  16. I’m pretty sure Mythbusters busted the buttered toast thing.

    There was an article in Scientific American a few years back that did conclude that toast lands buttered side down. Their explanation is that the toast will rotate as it falls, but from the average height toast would be dropped the majority of the speeds the toast would rotate at would be sufficient to flip it half way, but not all the way. Rotational speeds that would flip it all the way or less than half way were the minority. I didn’t see the Mythbusters take on it, but I seem to recall the SciAm article actually had tested this. Their point was actually to test Murphy’s law and figure out if it had validity. Their determination was that in many cases it did because of physical properties of the things involved.

  17. Untermensch, did you by any chance notice the month that article was published?

    I think they also tried to create perpetual motion by attaching a piece of buttered toast to a cat’s back and dropping them.

  18. Japan’s Raw:
    Sushi.

  19. robc’s laws of libertarianism:

    1. Everyone agrees with libertarians on something

    2. No two libertarians agree about anything.

    I disagree!

    /Try the veal

  20. Previous studies have shown that Sod’s Law isn’t a myth – toast will fall butter-side down,

    Yes, that’s true – unless, of course, one butters the wrong side. 😉

  21. Peter’s Principle:

    Every man shall rise to the level of his own mediocrity.

  22. In the early ’80s there was a series of at least three Murphy’s law paperbacks by Arthur Bloch that collected most or all of the corollaries.

    And was Parkinson’s Law the original tongue-in-cheek “law”?

  23. Montag’s Law: Chicks act perfectly fine and normal, until I get really into them after a few dates.

    Could use simplification.

  24. Simplification – Bitches be frontin’.

  25. Montag’s Law: Chicks act perfectly fine and normal, until I get really into them after a few dates.

    Could use simplification.

    Montog .NOT. spongeworthy.

  26. Peter’s Principle:

    Every man shall rise to the level of his own mediocrity.

    I thought it had something to do with most people in management being promoted beyond their abilities.

  27. Montag’s Law — Guy Montag will invariably date screwed up women, and not notice it due to concentrating on their breasts, until several dates in.

    Corrolary — several dates with Guy Montag will drive any woman to act a bit crazy.

  28. Guy–You’ve got it all crabbed. It’s the crazy(er) ones that are the ones to bed. Put up with it and just think of the ROI.

    My rule of thumb: her perceived level of screwiness is minus the cube of the amount of time getting’ lucky.

  29. My string theory:
    Two or more strings (or rope) or a string of sufficient length, shall tangle.

    This has been scientifically studied, and it’s true.

  30. It’s the crazy(er) ones that are the ones to bed.

    So has this, and it’s true too. 🙂

  31. stuartl,

    Sure:

    “The Science of Murphy’s Law,” by Robert A. J. Matthews. Scientific American, April 1997, pages 88-91. This whimsical article takes a scientific look at why things go wrong: why buttered toast always falls butter side down, why the place you are trying to find on a map is always in a crease, why mismatched socks proliferate. The author uses elements of geometry and probability to look into these everday conundrums.

  32. April? I’m not surprised. They probably actually ran the tests in March. It is so close to the equinox that sometimes scientific tests involving gravity are a little skewed.

  33. Episiarch,

    The best thing about Zod’s law is that it’s easy. And you have no choice but to obey.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.