# Murphy's Law(?)

1. Jul 16, 2007

### baywax

There's this "law" called Murphy's Law. It states that if anything can go wrong, it will. Is this a real law or is it a sub heading under the law of averages? Is there a way to verify if Murphy's Law is real? I mean, if anything could go wrong the internet will completely fail and I won't get any insight into what appears to be a popular myth.:uhh:

(edit) Was there actually someone named Murphy who had a lot of bad luck?

2. Jul 16, 2007

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy's_law

It taken literally, Murphy's Law would seem to resolve the landscape problem in String Theory.

I think the basis for this notion is that there are so many things that can go wrong for any real venture that something, or many things are bound to go wrong, which is suggested by the second reference.

Last edited: Jul 16, 2007
3. Jul 16, 2007

### baywax

That's very cool. I know what it feels like to have this balancing act going on in front of a large audience. If you sweat about it it going to go awry because of nervous decisions and awkward movements.

I thought this would make a good thread after seeing "MythBusters" and how they remarked how their experiments have a series of mishaps that seem to multiply as they occur, right on camera!:yuck:.

However, could not the same "logic" apply to a law that says if anything could go right it will? Because this has also been demostrated in magic shows, circus acts, concerts and performances of many kinds. Doesn't this Murphy's Law sort of take the negative side of life and see the glass as being half empty rather than half full?

4. Jul 16, 2007

### Schrodinger's Dog

Hehe, perhaps some people are taking it very much in terms of a law but not a law as we would normally think of one in science, i.e backed up by mathematical formulae and experiment; for example you can't pin down wrong or right except in philosophical concepts or make a concrete argument that whatever can go wrong will go wrong, sometimes things just work(otherwise known as no matter how much we seem to cock up, sometimes things just turn out for the best) So technically whatever can go wrong doesn't always or will not always go wrong.

This is of course a sort of running joke law, not meant to be taken literally AKA Sod's law; string theorists certainly wouldn't take it seriously, for a start it's not mathematically provable

Last edited: Jul 16, 2007
5. Jul 16, 2007

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Thanks SD, I forgot to mention that specifically - it is certainly not a real law in science, or one based on mathematics. Rather, it is more of a common notion held by pessimists [and systems integrators].

6. Jul 16, 2007

### K.J.Healey

Or IS it? Can it not also be read that "Anything that CAN happen WILL happen?" And is this not true that if the probability of an event is unity, it will occur?

7. Jul 17, 2007

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
This depends on the interval over which the probability for the event is 1. If this is larger than the interval of opportunity for the event to occur, then there is no certainty that it will. Also, the fact that a probability for an event exists does not suggest that the probability for that event is 1 over any interval, except perhaps over an infinite interval.

Last edited: Jul 17, 2007
8. Jul 18, 2007

### baywax

When we put aside our preferences, perceptions and preconceptions its easy to see how everything is going "right". Otherwise there'd be no universe.

As a result of all the chaos and catastrophy around us we get this incredible universe and we get to live in it. This immediately identifies Murphy's Law as an extremely relative concept.

9. Jul 18, 2007

### Gokul43201

Staff Emeritus
Silverman's Paradox: "If Murphy's Law can go wrong, it will."

If you have never read the Murphy's Laws books, go check one out from the nearest library - they're worth hours of good fun.

PS: The difference between things going right and things going wrong is that often, there's only one right way, but an infinite number of wrong ways.

Last edited: Jul 18, 2007
10. Jul 18, 2007

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Weigan's [spelling?] addendum to Murphy's Law: Murphy was an opptimist.

Good point! However, you forgot to mention that things that can't go wrong, will go wrong.

Perhaps my biggest Muphy's law experience was on a two-year project that promised to pay-off big over about five years, but with my first two years being poverty level income [I had to work a second job]. Throughout the project, it often seemed that the problems that we encountered were absurdly unlikely, but true none-the-less. We would often shake out heads in disbelief, but we kept plowing away until we final had them all beaten down. Then, after thousands of hours of low pay and terribly frustrating work, the project was ready to deliver. Unfortunately, on that morning - my due date -I woke up to see my customer on the morning news. They [and the rest of Portland] were hit by a 500 year flood, and then were nearly wiped out completely, as was my budget and marketing. They took a \$6 million hit and it was two years before they began to bounce back. Meanwhile, I couldn't hold out any longer and had to walk away. We did deliver the one unit, but the project never came back to life. We had missed our window of opportunity.

It is odd - some projects just seem doomed from the start.

11. Jul 20, 2007

### baywax

When you say often you must be refering to things not going as expected during a specific procedure.

What I see this psuedo-law applying to is situations where we are attempting some very delicate work. Even then it doesn't always apply. For instance, when you're driving at 140 mph on the Autobaun along with 70 other people in cars within eyesight and nothing goes wrong. In fact you can do this everyday for years and have nothing go wrong.

Then there's always the weather and how it doesn't always comply with the best laid plans of mice and men!

12. Aug 3, 2007

### Tsu

Tsu's Law: Murphy's an optimist.

13. Aug 4, 2007

### Smurf

Smurf's Law: Tsu's a pessimist.

14. Aug 4, 2007

### gravenewworld

To think, for the longest time I simply thought murphy's law meant that if you were at the bar and ordered a shot of liquor, but the bottle of liquor became empty while pouring, you got your shot for free. :rofl: