Talk:Murphy's law/Archive 1

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Hmm, I recall that Murphy originally said "If there's a possibility to do it wrong, he is going to do it". Now, this is a back translation from German, so I may be completely off. Can somebody shed some light? -- RedMabuse

"descriptive of the challenges of design for lusers" What is this supposed to mean? users? losers?

The use of meme jargon needs to be explained, so that readers of this page who are not familiar with the idea of memes (people who are unaware of the meme meme) can understand what you are talking about...

I wonder if a listing of the major Murphy's Law Corollaries (or, perhaps more properly, Finagle's Law Corollaries) should be created. These include the Law of Unintended Consequences, the Law of Relative Time, the Quantum Law of the Sandwich, etc.

Older comments

"The original Murphy's Law reads: "If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it." It was then a principle of defensive design. For example ..."

This article is really vague. By reading "It was then a principle of defensive design .." I can only try to guess, is this related to Engineering?? what on earth is "defensive design"? Rotem Dan 15:26 Apr 15, 2003 (UTC)

Defensive design is the idea that if you care about which way a plug gets plugged in, then you should *not* design it to be possible to plug in backwards, as the article notes.

This piece is *really* similar to the write-up in the Jargon File -- almost word for word in spots. Should some credit be given?

-- Baylink 15:41, 24 Dec 2003 (UTC)

'Defensive design' is more appropriately referred to as Design for X. Defensive design is a weak term and has very little actual usage. The example of the plug (above) would be correctly referred to as Design for Assembly.

Adding a link to Design for X would seem appropriate.

Ken (talk) 16:09, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Reading the provided article, I'm finding that the sensors wired to the harness were four in number, not sixteen. Also, the article mentions a variety of recollections about what the "original" pronouncement of the law was. Among them:

  • “If that guy has any way of making a mistake,” Murphy exclaimed with disgust. “He will.”
  • His statement was too long, and it really didn’t fit into a Law. So we tried many different things and we finally came up with, ‘If it can happen, it will happen.’”
  • And at the time I believe Stapp said something like, ‘If anything can go wrong he’ll do it.’

There is also some mention in the article that, according to George Nichols, the problem with the sensors was likely Murphy's poor design, and that "Murphy's Law" came about in discussion among the entire team, in what seems like almost a mockery of Murphy's original statement and his attitude that the problem was the fault of his assistant. Do we need to correct the article, to at least bring it in agreement with the fact that the origins of the Law are not entirely certain? -- Wapcaplet 01:56, 18 Apr 2004 (UTC)

OK, I've done a pretty much complete rewrite. Comments welcome. -- Wapcaplet 04:01, 18 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Instead of (or beside?) ancient floppy drives you can mention AT-style motherboards that could be connected to the powerblock two ways - only one was correct (black wires together). You could easily insert them in the opposite manner, burning the motherboard.

  • Good example, though I think readers in general are far more likely to be familiar with the floppy disk example. I think we should stick with examples that most computer users can relate to. -- Wapcaplet 03:47, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Explanation of removals

I hacked out some chunks. The tangent about how 5.25-inch floppies were designed to also be inserted upside-down seems unimportant, since there are still several incorrect orientations. The whole paragraph about some phantom "experimental data" that shows buttered bread is more likely to land butter-down has been replaced by a small qualifier "...regardless of the actual probability of either happening." I think the "experimental data" is entirely irrelevant to the impression people get that butter-down is likely.

Finally, I removed the bit about Sod's law being different and inaccurate. When dealing with a phrase that is under constant alteration, growth, and mutation (and when even the name of the law is under these effects), it seems very strange to talk of Sod's law being distinct from Murphy's law (especially when Sod's law redirects to Murphy's law), and equally strange to talk about what Sod's law "actually" says. -- Wapcaplet 19:00, 7 Oct 2004 (UTC)


Oh my. Okay, I don't think it's a problem for this article to link to a site about this formula for predicting the effects of Murphy's law, but I think it is completely ridiculous to have the formula explained in full within this article. The development of this formula can be little more than a joke, and does not appear to have any more scientific integrity than the proof Santa Claus doesn't exist. I am taking it out. -- Wapcaplet 16:06, 13 Oct 2004 (UTC)

There was a formula section in the article again that I removed. The reason is the same as described above. The formula is explained in two external links, it's not lost for Wikipedians interested in it.
Please comment here if you feel it should be included as part of the article again. — Ocolon 07:33, 15 March 2007 (UTC)

"Theatrical context"

A recent anonymous contribution added "While the proverb behind Murphy's Law existed as early as 1941, when it was quoted in a theatrical context..." A reference for this would be nice. If none is forthcoming, I will probably remove the statement. Certainly, the proverb behind Murphy's law has most likely been around forever; it was not "Murphy's Law" before the rocket sled tests, though. -- Wapcaplet 02:15, 23 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I thought in the theatrical context, Murphy's Law only, or mostly, applied when the name of "that scottish play," i.e. Macbeth, is spoken aloud. Ileanadu (talk) 15:03, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

Bread and butter

Contributed on October 24:

Note here that there exists a scientific explanation of why the slice of bread has a bigger chance to fall on the buttered side : Start from the scenario where the buttered slice is on the border of the table. It falls when its gravity center is located outside of the sustentation area (the table). At this point, the part outsite of the table goes doan and the one inside rises up, hence the slice starts turning. Considering that the butter is denser than the bread, and accounting the friction of air on the slice drop, one can easily conclude that this is this position that will be kept after the rotation stabilizes (by friction).

Usually the rotation hasn't stopped at the moment the slice hits the ground, but during each rotation, the slice spends more time buttered side down than buttered side up. Hence the bigger probability for the buttered slice to fall on the buttered side.

This almost certainly has no place in Murphy's law, but assuming this description is not dubious (and it very well may be), then we ought to put a mention of it somewhere!* 00:48, Oct 25, 2004 (UTC)

It sure sounds dubious to me. The explanation may seem scientific, but unless there is experimental data to support it, it's just speculation. Fun speculation, but speculation nonetheless. And, as mentioned above, I think this has little or no bearing on the perception that butter-side-down is the most probable outcome. -- Wapcaplet 16:11, 29 Oct 2004 (UTC)

It depends on the weight of the spread, I'd say. Lots of lumpy jam on there and perhaps I can agree with the theory. I guess a small amount of butter may bias the probability but only slightly. Anyway, it's fine for this to be on a talk page but don't think it deserves a place in the article. violet/riga (t) 16:22, 29 Oct 2004 (UTC)

THe buttered toast exapmle applies if the toast is slid off the table aprox 3' above the ground, and is toasted sufficiently to have become rigid, sich as if it is knocked off the table or the plate on which the toast is sitting is tipped. The part of the toast not supported by the table begins to fall, and so the toast is rotating. Before the toast has time to it the ground, it only has time to turn through pi, so it will be upside down when it hits the ground. this does not apply if the toast is slid too rapidly off the table, because then it will act as a wing and so remain the same way up. To prevent buttered toast landing upside down, it must eitehr be place on a table an even numebr of yards high, or placed on the plate upside down. It has nothing to do with how much time the toast spends each way up, and the effect of the butter is going to be irrelevant since the toast is not of even density anyway.

The bread and butter image makes no sense, as the buttered side is heavier. And that "Q.E.D." lacks neutrality. I have the impression that some people don't know what they're talking about in this so-called encyclopedic article, and if someone with common sense tries to do something about it they will revert it without giving explanations, as it happens all the time. However. --Agusk7 (talk) 23:01, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

Buttered bread redux

I removed:

point of fact, because of the height of tables, a buttered piece of toasted bread starting buttered-side-up on the edge of a table only completes about half a revolution and therefore impacts buttered-side-down

If non-obvious claims of "fact" are to be included here, please provide references. Otherwise, it's just speculation. See above. -- Wapcaplet 00:18, 22 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Your revert is inappropriate because it is obvious that buttered toasted bread falling off of the edge of a table will land buttered-side-down. ¿What next? ¿Must I prove that roses are red and violets are blue?


— Ŭalabio 04:11, 2005 Apr 22 (UTC)

Well, it's not obvious to me. I don't see that table height much to do with Murphy's law as applied to buttered toast; toast sitting on a table doesn't seem likely to suddenly fall off--to me it seems more likely that toast will fall to the ground while being carried to or passed across the table, or in delivery to the mouth, or that other factors aside from gravity and airflow are at work (you're working on slicing your steak, and the knife slips, sending the toast end-over-end across the dining room). The reference you provided is sort of hard to take seriously, when the author talks of tying the toast to a cat, and the electromagnetic and chemical constants determining the height of humans, which thus in turn determine the height of tables, and so (assuming ideal conditions) the likelihood of toast landing buttered-side down.

I don't mind having a link to such an article, but I don't think it should be presented here in Wikipedia as though it were a self-evident fact. -- Wapcaplet 23:59, 22 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Well, if one places a buttered piece of toasted bread on the edge of a table with the center of gravity over the edge, it will tumble to the floor. It will make about half a revolution. This is a function of the height of the table and the length of the toast.


— Ŭalabio 01:16, 2005 Apr 23 (UTC)

I just did a little experiment. Not with toast, but with a CD in a cardboard sleeve (about the same shape and weight). Indeed, if I very slowly push the CD to the edge of my desk until it falls, it tends to flip over. But if I push just a little faster, enough that the CD lands about a foot away from the desk, it tends to stay upright. Pushing faster still makes the CD glide erratically and land pretty randomly. Denser toast (with lots of butter) is less affected by air resistance. Allowing toast with peanut butter could change the landscape completely.

I guess what I'm saying is that it takes too many artificial constraints to make the toast land upside-down more often. -- Wapcaplet 05:48, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Whilst on the subject of scientific explanations. Buses coming in 2s or 3s is nothing to do with murphy's law. A common reason is as follows. A bus(X) is late, therefore more people have gathered at the 1st stop, hence the busX takes longer to load up the people. The bus behind (Y), sets off on time, however as the bus in front (X) picked up more passengers than usual the bus behind (Y) has less passengers to pick up, therfore taking less time. As the bus infront (X) took longer than normal to load up passengers it is now slightly later than it was orignaly. The next stop will contain an even greater percentage of people than the first stop. This leads to Bus (Y) having a smaller percentage to normal again, so taking less time and catching up even further. So they will eventually catch up. It is common to see 3 together on longer routes.

Variations in business at peak times etc can also cause this. Plus there are all sorts of possible areas for variation. But that is the basic rational reason. So nothing to do with things going wrong

However as many people don't know this reasoning and blame such a situation as a number of buses arriving simulataneously on murphy's law perhaps it should keep a place in the article. (particularly as many things seen as murphy's law often have a perfectly logical explanation) . Missing a particular bus or 'your' bus being late is perhaps more applicable to murphy's law.

I'll leave it to someone else to change though. Matt S 15/2/06


but when you spread the butter it creates a concave surface. its like dropping a leaf the concave surface stays up duh74.37.228.44 (talk) 00:09, 9 June 2008 (UTC)

Buttered Cat

I've always had an admittedly less humorous but more likely take on the strapping buttered toast onto a cat problem: The cat will land on its feet, and immediately roll over to try and get the toast off its back.

WHAT??? (talk) 23:43, 8 June 2008 (UTC)


It seems to me that a couple entries in this article are NOT representations of Murphy's law. Such non-Murphies include:

"A Smith & Wesson beats four aces."

This doesn't mean "Anything that can go wrong..." nor does

"The light at the end of the tunnel is that of an oncoming train."

That's just pessimism, to me.

"Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first."

How is this a representation of Murphy? If I've overlooked any, or you think I'm wrong, feel free to drop me a line and let me know. HubHikari 23:08, 19 March 2006 (UTC)

"Buses take ages to arrive, but when they do they always arrive in sets of three (in Britain 'you wait ages for a bus, then two come along at once!')."
The Murphyishness of this one too is questionable. In fact if I recall correctly, I once read that this was a real phenomenon which can be given a causal explanation and/or simulated on computer. Think about it: the first bus clears the traffic and passangers allowing the second and perhaps the third bus to catch up. Then you end up with a group of two or three busses now the next bus has extra work to do because the second (and third) bus are essentially useless. Thus the next bus takes ages again to arrive. Jimp 16:09, 23 March 2006 (UTC)
Where I live, buses can overtake each other but they still arrive in groups of threes. This is because the first one stops for the large crowd waiting, 2 and 3 overtake, then 2 has to stop for the crowd at the next stop, then 3, then back to 1. 13:01, 24 May 2006 (UTC)
Now I notice someone's already given this explanation above. You go typing up a long spiel only to find you're just repeating what's already been said ... Murphy's Law.
Anyhow ... is this Murphy's Law: with the busses? Three busses at once: what's wrong with that? Jimp 16:24, 23 March 2006 (UTC)
Wrong because you've been waiting for 3 times longer than the timetable says. (Exactly 3 times longer because according to Murphy's, you just missed the last set of 3 buses when you got to the stop.) 13:01, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

I always thought making it "five" aces makes more sense-means the shootee obviously goofed up his attempt at cheating, and paid the price-seems to fit in with the general philosophy here... John DiFool 11:56, 25 March 2006

I went ahead and removed some of the more blatantly non-murphysims, though I left some of the things that I think are just stupid but have a minor correlation to Murphy's law or some of its variations (especially the last one) 02:07, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

I dunno, I find the "Four Aces" one pretty murpyish. You get a good hand in poker, and someone robs it.--Sabre90 22:42, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

I have also heard something to the effect that "If we have lots of little problems along the way, this will satisfy the problem gods and we won't have a big problem opening night [for a show]." Is this part of Murphy's law or the law of averages? Dachshund2k3 00:30, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Proposed replacement of section four, maybe a major rewrite

It seems to me that all of the supposed examples of Murphy's Law listed in section four of this page are not examples of Murphy's Law, but rather popular expressions of irrational pessimism. Murphy's Law does not state that buttered bread will always land butter-side down, but, to the limited extent that the example is relevant at all, merely that it will eventually land butter-side down. But Murphy's Law isn't about dropping buttered bread, or any other random event beyond human control. It is about the inevitability of humans making mistakes. If a system is engineered such that a mistake can be made, eventually that mistake will be made. That's Murphy's Law, not the ridiculous claim that the mistake will be made every single time, and certainly not the meaningless claim that negative random events happen more often than they actually happen, nor the curious but irrelevant observation that certain negative random events happen more often than one might expect.

For example, if a peripheral connector on a computer is symmetrical, and connecting it with the incorrect orientation will cause hardware damage, someone will damage the hardware by connecting it incorrectly. Murphy's Law is not the absurdist claim that human beings are incapable of ever plugging anything in right-side-up; merely the observation that they are collectively incapable of doing everything correctly every single time, and thus that all modes of failure will eventually be explored.

Most of the examples don't even have any relevance to either of these, and refer simply to pessimism in general. (It is a stretch to relate "The day you forget your umbrella, it pours with rain" to poor engineering.)

In light of this confusion, I am tempted to remove section four altogether and replace it with a brief discussion of some examples of popular misconstructions of Murphy's Law. If I'm feeling especially energetic, I might rewrite some of the opening sentences to emphasize that point, and weed out some of the other irrelevant meandering discussion in later sections. Because this is a drastic change that is sure to upset someone, I'll let this comment sit for a couple of days before doing so. --dreish~talk 15:12, 25 May 2006 (UTC)

Plenitude Principle

Doesn't this relate to the Plenitude principle, and if so, should there be a reference to it? Oscabat 03:22, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Technically, this would be more a reference to Finagle's Law, by which we come to the old debate over pessimism versus optimism. The debate arises as to whether Finagle's Law really is the same as Murphy's Law, given that the first sentence seems to suggest this. I would suggest that Finagle's Law ("If anything can go wrong, it will" or something like that) is different from Murphy's Law, which suggests that if there is more than one way to do something, someone will do it the wrong way - this is actually an optimistic law, given that we can thus know if and when a problem will occur. In the context of the current article, however, there perhaps should a reference. Cyril Washbrook 00:20, 1 May 2006 (UTC)

Fixed opening sentence

...that things will go wrong in any given situation [adding:] in which error is possible.

I'm not sure why the original description left out the heart and soul of Murphy's law. It does NOT state that "things will go wrong in any given situation". It states that if error is possible, then that error will occur. In other words, if a bridge collapses 0.00000001 percent of the time, then it is certain of collapsing. A bridge that collapses 0.0 percent of the time will not collapse.

Actually, there was an error concerning significant figures in the last sentence. 0.0 percent is the same as 0.00000001 percent (rounds to two significant figures). It should be, "A bridge that collapses 0 percent of the time will not collapse" (then, it is exactly zero, while 0.0 may be a rounded version of 0.00000001, which yields an opposite result - the bridge will fall. P.P. (talk) 17:33, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Should page be used for "May be"

I noticed on the main page there is now three links to other meanings for Murphy's law. Should the page be moved so that it can be used for Murphy's law may refer to? Lummie 13:48, 10 May 2006 (UTC)

I've added a disambiguation page for the other uses as it was getting too cluttered on the main page. Lummie 02:24, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

Murphy's Laws of Combat Operations

I have jusy added a list compiled by me from many various sources (both online and off) of Murphy's Laws of Combat Operations. I kinda thought that a [age on Murphys Laws should include a little (hah!) section on the military side as well. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by rgbriggsy112 (talkcontribs) date.

To whom it may concern, FYI
  • This eventually became Murphy's laws of combat, which as of the moment, survived an AFD, and is now proposed for mergeto back into this article.
The discussion on the merge proposal is here. // FrankB 15:44, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

Apple Superstrings

I'm trying to find out if there's been any real scentific study of the Murphy-like behaviour of cords, especially, for instance, those of iPod earbuds, as well as any behind your desk right now.

It seems to me apparent that any two cords placed within a certain distance of one another will, as soon as you look away, immediately knot themseves numerous times. If placing a pair of iPod earbuds in a pocket, no matter how smoothed they are and not matter how quickly they are removed from said pocket, they will be knotted upon removal. If you are wearing drawstring trousers, they may, in fact, be knotted with your trousers.

Of course, I can only state this on a talk page, as Wikipedia has rules against stating the blatantly obvious (i.e. no original research), which is also the reason I am not signed in under a user account, as I feel that the association of a name to myself without citation would, in fact, serve as original research thus, by self-identification without expert validation. The IP address given my posts, on the other hand, can be considered to be cited from a valid external internet router and not of my own creation or the rightfully reviled original thought that might otherwise permeate a location populated by seemingly intelligent people. Further, if such a me made me sound cool (or any other way), it might be considered POV. 03:36, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

I can assure you that cords don't get magically tangled. I'm rather confused as to what you're trying to say in the later paragraph. It doesn't matter whether you have an account or not, it will still be original research. You were the one who made the above post, not your IP address. Nil Einne 14:20, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
I think you're lacking a Sarcasm Sensor, Nil Einne. :P I'm pretty sure the anonymouse was poking fun at the way the "no original research" policy is implemented, and the (allegedly) anal-retentive nature of citation-happy Wikipedians. In other words, it's satire. Quite blatant satire. Actually quite good satire, IMO. 17:54, 10 March 2007 (UTC)

Bad example, removing it

"* Your girlfriend is about to send you a nude picture of her over the internet and her camera breaks."

Wikipedia is not exclusively for young boys. I'm removing that line.

Lol, it is rather an immature comment. --Stikman 22:04, 3 April 2007 (UTC) -- 09:24, 25 July 2006 (UTC)


The examples in this article seem rather anecdotal to me. They do illustrate the concept of Murphy's law, in a fashion, but I had a hard time taking them seriously. It just seems to be a list of humorous observations of bad luck and inconveniences that somebody compiled. Additionally, I feel that there are too many listed; I'm going to go ahead and prune a few out. Angrycrustacean 08:30, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Pruned even more examples out. Not only is there no need for a massive list of examples, but many of the examples being added are not even related to Murphy's Law. The article explains Murphy's Law in more than enough detail, there should be no need for more than a few (as in, two or three) examples. I'm going to wait for more feedback and/or opinions, and then possibly greatly reduce the examples section to the two or three of the more exemplary lines. Angrycrustacean 08:10, 30 September 2006 (UTC)
Why oh why has this article been totally abandoned and articles like Your mom get a fine tooth comb treatment? I removed a bunch of examples and rewrote a few to be more concise. Also removed three or four links in the "See also" section that were only related to Murphy's Law insofar as they were laws themselves. I've never before seen a Wikipedia article that was so long(and significant) and yet so hopelessly cluttered, but then I may as well just fix it instead of whining. Angrycrustacean 04:58, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

Possible Reasoning

I added the "Possible Reasoning" section, but I'm not entirely sure if it's correct. It makes sense to me, but I'm not sure about the others reading this page (I might be wrong too). Could someone help me check and amend if required? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Lkc159 (talkcontribs) 08:12, 27 January 2008 (UTC)

Gregory Bateson's entropy

-Why do things get in muddle?

What do you mean? Thing? Muddle?

On "tidy" and "muddle"

  • "[...] There are more ways which you call 'untidy' than there are ways which you call 'tidy',..."

Gregory Bateson, "Steps to an Ecology of Mind", pp3-8, Chandler Publishing Company, Toronto, 1972

Takima 14:51, 13 September 2006 (UTC)


I know the proposed article is large, but taking notable examples from it (Such as "Friendly fire isn't friendly") and discussing it in context with Murphy's law canon would not make the article too large. PumeleonT 23:35, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

  • I'm against it. While Murphy's Laws of Combat share a name, they're really a completely different thing.Alternator 15:09, 1 January 2007 (UTC)
  • I agree. They are funny, but are more a collection of funny sayings, and less related to the "If anything can go wrong..." spirit of Murphy's Law. --Jerle0 06:26, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

Who said

"When you want something to happen it does'nt, but when you don't want it to happen it does" Culnacréann 19:43, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure who said it. There are two possible relatives of Murphy's Law that you may be thinking of. My personal favorite is The Unspeakable Law: As soon as you mention something, if it's good, it goes away, if it's bad, it happens. What you're looking for is more likely Gumperson's Law which is usually stated to be: The probability of anything happening is in inverse ratio to its desirability. If you want the complete statement see: Ileanadu (talk) 16:00, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

My edit, 07:05, 17 February 2007

I refined the wording a bit and transposed the links for "Sod's law" and "Finagle's law". First, what most people (incorrectly) cite as Murphy's law (that "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong") belongs to "Sod's law", while "Finagle's law" distinctly adds "at the worst possible time". Tony Myers 07:10, 17 February 2007 (UTC)


Who do some people get so irritated or upset with these laws? What makes them go mad? These are, after all, a set of simple statements emnated from everyday wisdom. Why to stumble upon them? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Aniljay (talkcontribs) 14:13, 4 March 2007 (UTC).

Other variations on Murphy's Law

the other ones may be appropriate, but the coles law is just ridiculous.

as a side note

Cole's Law: All of the cabbage in my kingdom must be served finely chopped and mixed with mayonnaise and little bits of carrot. - Old King Cole, as cited by C. Staley

found it on some funny website.-- 11:11, 24 August 2007 (UTC)


Murphy's Paradox: "If Murphy's law can fail, it will." --Antonio.sierra 01:20, 14 September 2007 (UTC)

Whoever put that "Cole's Law" on there, thanks. It deserved deletion, but it made my day. ----

Fair enough, but the joke has been made and lost its humor with repetition. Let's not see it again. John M Baker 00:00, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

Sod's Law

Sod's law has been redirected here (not by me). If this is going to stick then someone (not me) should remove the link from the see also section. Cosmo0 21:35, 1 October 2007 (UTC)

I removed it, it was a useless link since it just brought you back to the top of the article. Next time when you see something you think is wrong Be Bold and Fix it Jons63 18:23, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

Why does sod's law link here anyway? Its a different subject in its own right! Inputdata (talk) 06:26, 15 July 2009 (UTC)


Sorry, I think that was an accident!--Recoverypsychology 02:16, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

Samuel Beckett's Murphy

Doesn't the 1938 Sammuel Beckett novel "Murphy" have a character that makes this statement?--Recoverypsychology 02:18, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

No, though this seems to be a popular misconception. John M Baker 03:34, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

Annals of improbable research

Annals of improbable research, which seems to be the basis for much of the "Association with Murphy" section, does not seem to be a reliable source. It is, rather, a satirical journal. Is this entire section simply a hoax? --Zvika (talk) 14:41, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

I don't think that either this section, or the Annals of Improbable Research article, is a hoax. Rather, I understand that the 1948 test did occur and that there are people who seriously believe (a) that this is how Murphy's law was formulated (a claim disproven by the current version of the main article) or (b) that this is why it is called Murphy's law. The latter claim is weakened, but not disproven, by the lack of documented connections between Murphy's law and the 1948 test until a number of years afterward. John M Baker (talk) 20:29, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
Regardless of whether Murphy or the test that it resulted of was true or fictional, the ideology of "Anything that can go wrong, will" is popular enough to deserve attention and "Murphy's Law" is more or less The title that has been applied to it. Fallenangei (talk) 09:04, 11 December 2008 (UTC)


For Wikipedia references, please do not use "ibid" or similar shorthand. (talk) 04:40, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

first paragraph

I don't think we need all the different ways of saying 'whatever can go wrong, will go wrong' at the top. I think people get the idea, Im removing all but two? Lynch2007 (talk) 00:58, 11 May 2008 (UTC)

connection to Morpheus?

I take it that the connection of Murphy's Law to Morpheus, Greek god of dreams & popular comic book character, is apocryphal, then? I've heard several people claim that the Murphy in Murphy's Law is a shortening of Morpheus, that the saying and name are quite old; and that it refers to the phenomenon encountered while dreaming, wherein once the dreamer thinks of something that might go wrong, it almost invariably does. I've heard this from a few people and thought it might deserve a mention, even if only to state that it's inaccurate. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:26, 5 August 2008 (UTC)


I, a Yank, have never heard the term "manutation technician" used before; when I did a web search, most of the entries that turned up were in French. Is this a common usage in England? I assume you mean what we call a person from the IT department ("Information Technology"), or somewhat redundantly, an IT Technician. Some synonymous adjectives we use include computer support and technical support, especially outside of a corporate context. Wiktionary says that "manutention" means maintenance. "Maintenance" would never be used in the U.S., because that's a PC way of referring to what we used to call the janitorial department. (You Brits shouldn't feel too superior; we have yet to call a failing grade "deferred success.") Ileanadu (talk) 15:30, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

Variations: Flanagan and Finagle

Once again, my U.S. background has put a hurdle in the way of my reading this article. When I was reading the end of the section on "Variations" and read "Flanagan's Precept" I at first thought there was a typo. (Flanagan, Finnegan, Finagle?) Then, I thought that perhaps the article would soon give me some idea of who this Finagle person was, but it didn't. I searched on the page and saw that indeed, Finagle's law had been mentioned at the top of the article. I had just forgotten, perhaps because we don't commonly use the term here.

I don't know if an attempt to improve the clueless reader's experience is warranted. I am a big believer in "defensive design" (by not being defensive - lol) when considering critiques, at least in the type of writing I do. One can always try to make the point more clearly, because it's the reader's experience that counts, and not the author's mastery of language. It's another way of trying to make something idiot proof for idiots like me.

So anyway, I followed the Finagle link at the top of the page, so I could find out if there was at one point a person named Finagle involved, but there was nothing on the website to indicate eponymous origins. I've done a general search, and it appears that the origins for the word "Finagle" are not eponymous. Was it called Finagle's law to be ironic/humorous? Am I a dummy for not picking up on that earlier? Flanagan's Precept suggest that Murphy and Finagle were actual persons. So was Flanagan just speaking metaphorically? Was there even a Flanagan? Ileanadu (talk) 18:12, 29 August 2008 (UTC)


The image isn't so great. Someone who's invested in this article should change it. (talk) 20:24, 25 September 2008 (UTC)

OK, I nominate you to go take a picture. SpinningSpark 21:10, 25 October 2008 (UTC)


Parts of this page are rapidly becoming a collection of every funny variation that workers have ever thought up over their coffee break. An awful lot of it has no references and is probably uncitable. I propose to delete all the elements marked with a cite tag. If you think that a ref for an item might eventually be found, please list it here so that we can give it a chance to come up with a ref. SpinningSpark 21:10, 25 October 2008 (UTC)

Nevil Maskelyne

The Nevil Maskelyne (stage magician) in the article is not the same Nevil Maskelyne that is linked to. Can we eliminate the hyperlink? (talk) 20:14, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Yes, but who is the correct person? Would that be his father John Nevil Maskelyne? If so, then there is also a problem in that the quote is attributed to The Art in Magic, a book claimed to be by Nevil Maskelyne (magician) in that article. Some of the other books claimed there seem dubious as well, for instance the one in co-authored with his father's collaborator David Devant. Can you throw any more light on this. SpinningSpark 19:03, 8 November 2008 (UTC)
Ok, I have just got on-message with this. When you first posted the link was pointing to Nevil Maskelyne the astronomer, but is now pointing to Nevil Maskelyne (magician). Nevertheless, I still think there is an open question over whether the quote is due to father or son magician. SpinningSpark 19:31, 8 November 2008 (UTC)
I think that the quote can be attributed to Nevil Maskelyne, the son. He is definitely the one who co-wrote Our Magic. (talk) 06:22, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
Okay, now I am not so sure about this. The article on David Devant seems conflicted, first claiming that he wrote Our Magic with the elder Maskelyne; and then at the bottom it claims he wrote it with the son. Other accounts on the internet appear to be mixed. I will research this within the magic community and report back. (talk) 06:30, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
I have determined that the younger Nevil Maskelyne did write "Our Magic", and the link is currently pointing to the correct page. (talk) 08:02, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
Long gone, but still able to perform misdirection tricks. SpinningSpark 21:34, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Removed Two Tags

Removed uneccessary "Citation needed" and "Who?" tags. As for the first one, if someone can, someone has. For the second one, same thing, except more personally, me. I don't think anyone needs a citation for "Some people enjoy running nude through public spaces" or "Some people break laws" and I think this fits under that same category. Of course, if anyone feels the need to disagree with me [who?], feel free to do so. Fallenangei (talk) 09:07, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

Sorry, I would not have reverted you straight away if I had noticed you had posted here earlier. The reason I disagree is as follows. The first tag is on the claim that defensive design is known as "Murphy-proofing". While it is undoubtedly true that someone, somewhere, has used this phrase, it has no place in the article unless it has some kind of currency amongst engineers. It is a straightforward factual claim that needs to be verifiable. The second one is a tag on the claim that some people use Murphy's law as a life philosophy. I take your point that that is almost a truism, you could surely find someone who uses chewing gum as a life philosophy, or almost anything else. The point is, is it notable as a life philosophy? Has anyone written about it? Are there any celebrities who use it? If the answers are no, then again, it really does not belong in the article. SpinningSpark 16:56, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

"Ingenious fool" origin

I once developed some database software for an "ingenious fool" who proved to be the ultimate software debugger. If any error was left un-trapped, he would be guaranteed to make that error, and crash the computer. I called him Murphy (under my breath)! The result was that the software ended up being idiot proof. Before he was fired I offered him to our software department to debug their software, but they declined.

I think that Murphy was up against a similarly ingenious fool. The sort of person who, finding that things did not fit, would "persuade" them (with a hammer) or "modify them wrong" to make them fit.

Is there evidence for the "ingenious fool" origin of Murphy's Law? GilesW (talk) 11:23, 13 February 2009 (UTC)

There is something which I call "blind spot theory". All human perception has "blind spots" (akin to the optic nerve blind spot) and these blind spots prevent us from having a fully accurate macro view. The only way to compensate for that is to apply multiple iterations of double-checking, from multiple perspectives. This procedure raises the certainty (but does not guarantee) that no two blind spots will overlap and therefore, the problem will be detected in advance. Your "fool" was a blessing in disguise, in that his perspective was so different from yours, that he stumbled on all your blind spots quickly. How does this apply to Murphy's law? ML is a traditional form of knowledge which sums up succinctly the fact that when dealing with people, blind spots are often overlooked and as a result, consequences occur. (talk) 05:37, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
Please read WP:OR before writing any of that in the article. SpinningSpark 17:53, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

Spark- before you spout-off with more expert advice, please read a few of the other poster's edit history - to see if they even need your advice... you sound like a snob. (talk) 05:24, 24 March 2009 (UTC)

Broken Link

I've removed the fifth link down "Mathematical Formula for Murphy's Law" as the page no longer exists. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Nelliejellynoonaa (talkcontribs) 11:29, 13 February 2009 (UTC)

Sod's Law or Murphy's Law?

Sod's Law is obviously a humorous, irreverend word-play on God's Law.

From a UK military and aviation background, a succinct wording of Sod's Law that I have heard is: "Anything left to chance will go wrong." Google finds limited support for this version, although it is attributed to Murphy.

If the "ingenious fool" origin (above) of Murphy's Law is correct, then attributing Sod's Law to Murphy, although common, appears to be mistaken. I suspect they were originally two separate laws with subtle but technically important differences of meaning that have been lost. To me, Murphy's Law implies a degree of folly or incompetence absent in Sod's Law, which is more fatalistic.

Perhaps the attribution of Sod's Law to Murphy was influenced by politeness (or political correctness), Sod being open to objection from various points of view. There might also be a US / UK aspect to this.

Is there any documentary evidence for any of these hypotheses? GilesW (talk) 12:27, 13 February 2009 (UTC)

I've never been comfortable with equating Sod's law with Murphy's law. Clearly, there are similarities but I strongly suspect they have different origins. According to The Phrase Finder the earliest record they can find for Sod's law is the New statesman October 1970. But I started my career in the '60s and have been hearing Sod's law for as long as I can remember so it is unlikely that is actually the origin. The Phrase Finder also credits Finagle's law to Astounding Science Fiction editor John W. Campbell although they trace the word "finagler" back much further.
I propose taking Sod's law out of the lead as an equivalent phrase and just mentioning it in the corrollaries section. At least until some more solid references are turned up. SpinningSpark 15:37, 13 February 2009 (UTC)
100% agreed -- if we include everyone who coined some similar concept we'd run out of room. Mentioning "Sod's Law" or "Finagle's Law" in the introduction is just confusing (and this spoken as a Larry Niven fan); though arguably notable, their notability is orders of magnitude lower than the original. I would even suggesting going further and pruning it down to "Murphy's law is an adage in Western culture that broadly states: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."" and leaving it at that. Lauciusa (talk) 19:36, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
This article definitely confuses Murphy's and Sod's Laws. Sod's law is about outrageous fate, Murphy's Law is about human error.

Thethibs (talk) 13:46, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

Thethibs, with respect, I disagree. I think it is common consent that there are lots of privaate, or local, meanings for all these terms. The article tries to address those for which there are reliable sources. I know that's not perfect but I don't think much would be gained by muddying the water. SimonTrew (talk) 22:08, 5 April 2009 (UTC)
This point of dissent is particularly interesting to me. Having an engineering background in the US, I've heard "Murphy's Law" many times. (I had not heard "Sod's Law" prior to reading this article.) I can't debate the origin of the law as presented here, but the contexts in which I've seen and heard it used have been exclusively fatalistic--having little or nothing to do with human error as such. (More specifically, human error being included because it is one of the possible manifestations of outrageous fate, not because it is the guiding principle of the law.) So perhaps it didn't originate that way, but it certainly seems to be the way that it is currently used.
From reading here I agree that Sod's Law is subtly different, but not in the way that you are proposing. To wit, stating that the most inconvenient turn of events is the most likely could in some situations be incompatible with the assertion that everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Imagine a repeatable situation where there are two things that can go wrong, one being worse than the other, but both cannot occur at the same time. It really seems like we're starting to split fine semantic hairs there, though. Carychan (talk) 06:27, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm from the UK, and do use both "Sod's Law" and "Murphy's Law" in different circumstances. Chambers (a fairly well respected UK dictionary, if a little tongue in cheek at times) defines Sod's Law as:

"Sod's Law the precept that states that the most inconvenient thing is the most likely to happen, of if there a possibility that something will go wrong, it will."

It defines Murphy's Law as a subset of Sod's Law, only including the second precept:

"Murphy's Law that one of Sod's Laws by which if something can go wrong, it will."

I would have said that "The day you forget your umbrella, it pours with rain" from above is an example of Sod's Law, but not Murphy's Law. (talk) 17:57, 7 September 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, that was basically the understanding I had gathered, so it's nice to see a respectable citation for it. In particular, if one is a subset of the other, then making a distinction between one being about fate and another being about human error is definitely not correct. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Carychan (talkcontribs) 23:38, 15 October 2009 (UTC)

My own misconception: Is it common? Should we mention it?

Until I read this Wikipedia article, I was using a mistaken definition of Murphy's law. I thought Murphy's law was, "If you take a precaution, it will be unnecessary, but if you neglect the precaution, then the exact catastrophe you wanted to avoid will occur." Here is a very classic example: If you bring an umbrella, it will not rain. If you forget the umbrella one day, it will rain. This is a special case of Murphy's law, really: Whether you bring the umbrella or not, the worst possible thing will happen. This can also be thought of as the intersection of Murphy's law and irony.

After seeing this article, I was astonished this wasn't mentioned at all. I didn't just think this was an interesting case of Murphy's law, I thought it was Murphy's law. My mother and I both suffered from this misconception about Murphy's law, so I know where I got it. How many other people share this misconception? I had heard Murphy's law invoked a dozen times, but in context it always made sense with my own incorrect definition. (talk) 00:59, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

I must admit I have never heard it used in that specific sense. There is probably another "Law" that covers that case. If it is common yes I think it deserves adding, but I for one have never heard it. I know what you mean though-- like set the alarm clock wake up before it goes off, forget to set it you'll be late. SimonTrew (talk) 02:47, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
Your version is similar to the standard version in that it asserts that forgetting the umbrella will result in rain, but different in that it addresses the situation where you do bring an umbrella. We would only want to discuss this distinctive version if there is a reliable source that covers it; after all, an encyclopedia shouldn't be covering a meaning that is limited to you and your mother. John M Baker (talk) 18:36, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
Agreed this is not the place to just reminisce about maternal hand-me-downs, but if this is common it is relevant (and if it is not it is also relevant to find that out). I have lived in enough different regions of the UK to realise how quickly meanings of expressions can change. SimonTrew (talk) 18:46, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

Toast and finger image

Some time ago I found a better image for the lead after another editor commented that the "toast and finger" image was not very good. This has now returned, (but not now in the lead). Does anyone else feel we don't really want this in the article? SpinningSpark 16:04, 11 April 2009 (UTC)

I am in favour of removing the toast and finger image. HumphreyW (talk) 16:12, 11 April 2009 (UTC)
Me too. It's obvious that the toast will fall on the buttered side because it's heavier. Even if it wasn't buttered, it would fall on that side because of the position in which it falls. I wrote that on the article and they reverted my edit, which is very unfair. some people have no common sense. Can someone remove it, please? Besides, the finger of that guy is nasty. Horrible, horrible image. --Agusk7 (talk) 22:53, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

This article needs

This article needs a section on the scientific explanation as to why this law works. Why is the universe organized in a way that makes everything that can go bad go bad? (talk) 12:46, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

There is no scientific explanation - it is not a scientific law, although it is sometimes associated with the second law of thermodynamics; which is already mentioned in the article. SpinningSpark 08:06, 24 July 2009 (UTC)