Murphy's Law finally written down in an equation


October 11, 2004

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Murphy's Law has finally been written down in an equation. One of the seeming fundamental laws of mankind "if anything can go wrong, it will" is known by many names, most commonly as Murphy's law. This can now be written as ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10)) where U=urgency, C=complexity, I=importance, S=skill, A=aggravation and F=frequency

Though stated in many different ways over the ages, the axiom gained its popular name at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949 when Air Force Dr. John Paul Stapp pulled 40Gs during deceleration testing and lived to hold a press conference. He attributed the project's good safety record was based on a firm belief in Murphy's Law and hence the necessity to circumvent it.

Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on the project (to see how much sudden deceleration a person can tolerate) had coined the "law" and it had become a metaphor for thoroughness in the project team.

The press conference was held, the press liked the quirky Law and American culture absorbed it. With the widespread dissemination of American culture through global television, the law has become universal.

One of the most complete resources of information on Murphy's law is and well worth a read for a chuckle.

Some corollaries of Murphy's Law:

A library book will always be checked out when you want to get it. All the good ones are taken. If the person isn't taken, there's a reason. The nicer someone is, the farther away (s)he is from you. Brains x Beauty x Availability = Constant. 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 anything just cannot go wrong, it will anyway If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something 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 The hidden flaw never stays hidden for long. Murphy's Law of Thermodynamics Things get worse under pressure. The Murphy Philosophy Smile . . . tomorrow will be worse. Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to its value Everything takes longer than you think. Every solution breeds new problems.

Our favourite: The probability of an event occurring is inversely proportional to the desirability of that event.

: )

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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