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Murphy and Friends

(144 entries, updated September, 2007)


You might guess that a collection of 'laws' might focus on quotes from famous legal documents or court decisions, or even on humorous or outdated codes from US or international law. Nope. This is the 'Science' section - a collection of observed, imagined, or empirical laws of nature, social science and technology. More specifically, it is on observations of how these things don't always go the way we want them to.

The archetypal example is, of course, the original Murphy's Law, credited to Edward Murphy, that "if anything can go wrong, it will." Murphy was part of an Air Force team doing rocket-sled experiments in the late 1940's - the kind of experiment that requires lots of preparation, and has lots of steps - multiplying the chances for error.

Over the last half-century, Murphy's Law has spawned a wide range of correllaries and 'stepchildren'. This is a collection of those offspring, gleaned from an equally wide range of sources, including online discussion(usenet) groups during the early days of the internet, several 'authoritative' books on the subject, discussions while eating lunch on the stoop of Charlie's Fish Shack, and observations made during the Beatyville Wooly-Worm festival. Enjoy.


       --Steve


     - A -

  1. When the plane you are on is late, the plane you want to transfer to is on time.
       The Airplane Law


  2. Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.
       Allen's Law


  3. Don't force it; get a larger hammer.
       Anthony's Law of Force


  4. Any tool when dropped, will roll into the least accessible corner of the workshop.
       Anthony's Law of the Workshop


  5. On the way to the corner, any dropped tool will first strike your toes.
       Corollary to Anthony's Law of the Workshop


  6. Every instructor assumes that you have nothing else to do except study for that instructor's course.
       Fourth Law of Applied Terror


  7. The night before the English History mid-term, your biology instructor will assign 200 pages on planaria.
       Corollary to the Fourth Law of Applied Terror


  8. If you are given an open-book exam, you will forget your book.
       Fifth Law of Applied Terror


  9. If you are given a take-home exam, you will forget where you live.
       Corollary to the Fifth Law of Applied Terror


  10. If it should exist, it doesn't.
       Arnold's First Law of Documentation


  11. If it does exist, it's out of date.
       Arnold's Second Law of Documentation


  12. Only useless documentation transcends the first two laws.
       Arnold's Third Law of Documentation


  13. If you can't learn to do it well, you should learn to enjoy doing it badly.
       Ashleigh's First Law


  14. Interchangeable parts won't.
       Laws of Assembly, II


  15.  - B -

  16. No matter which way you ride, it's uphill and against the wind.
       First Law of Bicycling


  17. What you don't know will always hurt you.
       First Law of Blissful Ignorance


  18. Inside every small problem is a large problem struggling to get out.
       Second Law of Blissful Ignorance


  19. The remaining work to finish in order to reach your goal increases as the deadline approaches.
       Bove's Theorem


  20. The first pull on the cord ALWAYS sends the drapes in the wrong direction.
       Boyle's Other Law


  21. Whenever a system becomes completely defined, someone discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.
       Brooke's Law


  22.  - C -

  23. If you tell the boss you were late for work because you had a flat tire, the next morning you will have a flat tire.
       Cannon's Law
  24. You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you Can't Fool Mom.
       Captain Penny's Law


  25. The only things that start on time are those that you're late for.
       Cayo's Law


  26. No project was ever completed on time and within budget.
       Cheops Law


  27. Hot glass looks the same as cold glass.
       Dominic Cirino's Law of Burnt Fingers


  28. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
       Clarke's First Law


  29. The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible.
       Clarke's Second Law


  30. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
       Clarke's Third Law


  31. Shredded cabbage goes great with shredded carrots and mayonnaise.
       Cole's Law


  32. Any given program, when running, is obsolete.
        Laws of Computer Programming, I


  33. Any given program costs more and takes longer.
       Laws of Computer Programming, II


  34. If a program is useful, it will have to be changed.
        Laws of Computer Programming, III


  35. If a program is useless, it will have to be documented.
        Laws of Computer Programming, IV


  36. Any program will expand to fill available memory.
        Laws of Computer Programming, V


  37. The value of a program is proportional to the weight of its output.
        Laws of Computer Programming, VI


  38. Program complexity grows until it exceeds the capabilities of the programmer who must maintain it.
        Laws of Computer Programming, VII


  39. Any non-trivial program contains at least one bug.
       Laws of Computer Programming, VIII


  40. Undetectable errors are infinite in variety, in contrast to detectable errors, which by definition are limited.
        Laws of Computer Programming, IX


  41. Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.
       Laws of Computer Programming, X


  42.  - D -

  43. Design flaws travel in groups.
       Fifth Law of Design


  44. Opportunity always knocks at the least opportune moment.
       Ducharme's Precept


  45.  - E -

  46. Spend sufficient time confirming the need and the need will disappear.
       Ed's Fifth Rule of Procrastination


  47. In approaching a double door, you will always go to the one door that is locked, pull when you should have pushed, and push when the sign says pull.
       Ehre's Double-Door Law


  48. Anything that can go wrong already has, you're just not aware of it yet!
       Elson's Law


  49. The other line moves faster.
       Etorre's Observation


  50.  - F -

  51. If an experiment works, something has gone wrong.
       Finagle's First Law


  52. No matter what the experiment's result, there will always be someone eager to: (a) misinterpret it. (b) fake it. or (c) believe it supports his own pet theory.
       Finagle's Second Law


  53. In any collection of data, the figure most obviously correct, beyond all need of checking, is the mistake.
       Finagle's Third Law


  54. Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it only makes it worse.
       Finagle's Fourth Law


  55. Chicken Little only has to be right once.
       Firestone's Law of Forecasting


  56. When you need to knock on wood is when you realize that the world is composed of vinyl, naugahyde and aluminum.
       Flugg's Law


  57. If you knew what you were doing, you'd probably be bored.
       Fresco's Law


  58. Push something hard enough and it will fall over.
       Fudd's First Law


  59. Information necessitating a change of design will be conveyed to the designer after and only after the design is complete. (Often called the 'Now They Tell Us' Law)
       Fyfe's First Law of Revision


  60. In simple cases, presenting one obvious right way versus one obvious wrong way, it is often wiser to choose the wrong way so as to expedite subsequent revision.
       Fyfe's First Law of Revision - Corollary I

  61. The more innocuous the modification appears to be, the further its influence will extend and the more the design will have to be redrawn.
       Fyfe's Second Law of Revision


  62. If, when completion of a design is imminent, field dimensions are finally supplied as they actually are, instead of as they were meant to be, it is always simpler to start over from scratch.
       Fyfe's Third Law of Revision


  63. It is usually impractical to worry beforehand about interferences -- if you have none, someone will make one for you.
       Fyfe's Third Law of Revision - Corollary I

     - G -

  64. A little ignorance can go a long way.
       Gerrold's Law


  65. An object in motion will be heading in the wrong direction.
       Gerrold's First Law of Infernal Dynamics


  66. An object at rest will be in the wrong place.
       Gerrold's Second Law of Infernal Dynamics


  67. It ain't necessarily so.
       Gershwin's Law


  68. If the shoe fits, it's ugly.
       Gold's Law


  69. 2 is not equal to 3 - not even for very large values of 2.
       Grabel's Law


  70. Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers.
       Grossman's Law


  71. When you are served a meal aboard an aircraft, the aircraft will encounter turbulence.
       Gunter's First Law of Air Travel


  72. The strength of the turbulence is directly proportional to the temperature of you coffee.
       Gunter's Second Law of Air Travel


  73.  - H -

  74. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
       Hanlon's Razor


  75. The probability of someone watching you is proportional to the stupidity of your action.
       Hartley's First Law


  76. If you wait, it will go away.
       Hellrung's Law


  77. It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account.
       Hofstadter's Law


  78.  - J -

  79. The chance of the bread falling with the butter side down is directly proportional to the value of the carpet.
        Jennings' Corollary to the Law of Selective Gravity


  80. Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself.
       Joe's Law


  81.  - K -

  82. Any quotation that can be altered will be.
       Keyes First Rule of Misquotation


  83. Famous dead people make excellent commentators on current events.
       Keyes Fifth Corrollary on Misquotation


  84. In a pinch, any orphan quote can be called a Chinese proverb.
       Keyes Eleventh Rule of Misquotation


  85. Tolerances will accumulate unidirectionally toward maximum difficulty of assembly.
        Klipstein's Law


  86. Any product cut to length will be too short.
       Klipstein's Observation


  87. The trouble with resisting temptation is it may never come your way again.
       Korman's Law


  88.  - L -

  89. After the last of 16 mounting screws has been removed from an access cover, it will be discovered that the wrong access cover has been removed.
       de la Lastra's Law


  90. After an access cover has been secured by 16 hold-down screws, it will be discovered that the gasket has been omitted.
       de la Lastra's Corollary


  91. No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.
       Levy's Eighth Law


  92. Louie's "IF" Rules, created and cultivated by Louis Spanoudis:
       
    1. If it ain't no big deal, don't worry about it.
    2. If you can't do anything about it, don't worry about it.
    3. If it's someone else's problem, don't worry about it.
    4. If it's easily fixed, it don't matter whose fault it was.
    5. If it's done it's done, if it can't be undone--don't worry about it.
    6. If there's no damage, don't make a project out of it.

  93. If it breaks, it needed replacing anyway.
       Lowery's Law


  94. There's always one more bug.
       Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology


  95. If a computer cable has one end, then it has another.
       Lyall's Conjecture


  96. The most important leg of a three legged stool is the one that's missing.
       Lyall's Fundamental Observation


  97.  - M -

  98. If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.
       Maier's Law


  99. For every action there is an equal and opposite government program.
       Main's Law


  100. Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.
       Manley's Maxim


  101. The shortest distance between two points is under construction.
       McGregor's Revised Maxim


  102. In a social situation, the most difficult thing to do is usually the right thing to do.
       Meyers Law


  103. If at first you don't succeed, read the manual
       Montgomery's Maxim


  104. If anything can go wrong, it will.
       Murphy's Law


  105. 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.
       Murphy's Original Law


  106. Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
       Murphy's First Corollary


  107. It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
       Murphy's Second Corollary


  108. Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to its value.
       Murphy's Constant


  109. Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than you are.
       Murphy's First Military Law


  110. Friendly fire isn't.
       Murphy's Second Military Law


  111. The most dangerous thing in the combat zone is an officer with a map.
       Murphy's Third Military Law


  112. Incoming fire has the right of way.
       Murphy's Fourth Military Law


  113. The army with the smartest dress uniform will lose.
       Murphy's Fifth Military Law


  114. If your sergeant can see you, so can the enemy.
       Murphy's Sixth Military Law


  115. Don't be conspicuous. In the combat zone, it draws fire. Out of the combat zone, it draws sergeants.
       Murphy's Seventh Military Law


  116. If you really need an officer in a hurry, take a nap.
       Murphy's Eighth Military Law


  117. The quartermaster has only two sizes, too large and too small.
       Murphy's Ninth Military Law


  118. Never worry about the bullet with your name on it. Instead, worry about shrapnel addressed to 'occupant'.
       Murphy's Tenth Military Law


  119.  - N -

  120. If you need four screws for the job, the first three are easy to find.
       The N-1 Law


  121. Negative expectations yield negative results.
    Positive expectations yield negative results.
       Non-Reciprocal Law of Expectations


  122.  - O -

  123. If you change lines, the one you just left will start to move faster than the one you are now in.
       O'Brian's Law


  124. Variables won't, constants aren't.
       Osborn's Law


  125. Murphy was an optimist.
       O'Toole's Commentary


  126.  - P -

  127. You cannot successfully determine beforehand which side of the bread to butter.
       Perversity of Nature Law


  128. If you did manage to get any good shots, they will be ruined when someone inadvertently opens the darkroom door and all of the dark leaks out.
       The Third Law of Photography


  129. More often than not, the water you clean your brushes in will start to look like coffee. It will not taste like coffee.
       Painter's Law of Watercolors


  130. Do not place your coffee next to the cup you clean your brushes in.
       Painter's 2nd Law of Watercolors


  131. Nothing is so good that somebody, somewhere will not hate it.
       Pohl's Law


  132. Everything costs more and takes longer.
       Pournelle's Law of Costs and Schedules


  133.  - Q -

  134. Everything goes wrong all at once.
       Quantized Revision of Murphy's Law


  135. When travelling down the freeway, the first bug to hit a clean windshield will always land directly in front of the driver's face.
       Quigley's Law of Highway Driving


  136. The longer you wait in line, the greater the likelihood that you are in the wrong line.
       The Queue Principal


  137.  - R -

  138. It is usually impractical to worry beforehand about interferences. If you have none, someone will make one for you.
       The Fourth Law of Revision


  139. The most delicate component will be dropped.
       Rosenfield's Regret


  140. When working toward the solution of a problem, it always helps if you know the answer.
       Rule of Accuracy


  141. If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you have tried.
       Rule of Failure


  142. If nobody uses it, there's a reason.
       Rule of Reason


  143.  - T -

  144. It works better if you plug it in.
        Sattinger's Law


  145. A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.
       Segal's Law


  146. An object will fall so as to do the most damage.
       Selective Gravity Law


  147. Celibacy is not hereditary.
       First Law of Socio-Genetics


  148. Technology don't transfer.
       Stenton's Law


  149.  - V -

  150. An unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys.
       Van Roy's Law


  151.  - W -

  152. Progress is made on alternate Fridays.
       Weinberg's First Law


  153. If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.
       Weinberg's Second Law


  154. There are no answers, only cross references.
       Weiner's Law of Libraries


  155. A few months in the laboratory can save a few hours in the library.
       Westheimer's Law


  156. Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.
       Wethern's Law


  157. Government expands to absorb revenue and then some.
       Wiker's Law


  158. No experiment is reproducible.
       Wyszowski's Law


  159. Anything can be made to work if you fiddle with it long enough.
        Wyszkowski's Second Law


  160.  - Z -

  161. Nobody notices when things go right.
       Zimmerman's Law of Complaints


  162. People are always available for work in the past tense.
       Zymurgy's Law of Volunteer Labour


  163. Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a bigger can.
       Zymurgy's First Law of Systems Dynamics



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