The phrase 'Murphy's law' was coined in 1949 by Edward A Murphy, Jr, an engineer for the US Air Force. At the time he was carrying out a series of tests on human resistance to high accelerations. In one of the tests, the subject had to have a sensor mounted on him. This could be done in two ways. Murphy discovered that someone had applied all the sensors to the subject backwards.
This led him to state the following law:
If there is a wrong way to do something, then someone will do it.
This was also paraphrased as:
If anything can go wrong, it will.
This saying was quoted by the test subject, Major John Stapp, to a few reporters at a press conference a couple of days later. Some reporters obviously decided to include this in their articles, and sooner or later, this commonplace observation was immortalized as 'Murphy's Law.'
Murphy's Law, also known as Sod's Law, applies when the outcome of an act results in misfortune, or a hoped for event concludes with soul-destroying disappointment. The law is an integral part of our lives. It's woven into the very fabric of space and time and intertwined with the strange rules of probability that govern our lives.
Typical examples are:
- Dropped toast always lands butter side down
- Old people winning the lottery
- Much-tended pet fish dying anyway
- The Laundromat shreds your only suit the day before an important job interview.
Many individuals perceive this law as an affliction and, whilst not being a disease in the true sense of the word, it can certainly blight an otherwise mediocre existence. Broadening the principles of bad luck, Murphy's Law dictates that when something unfortunate can happen, it will, and just when you think things can't possibly get any worse, they do, and then some.
Bad luck tends to denote a single occurrence of misfortune, occasionally manifesting in short-lived bouts. Murphy's Law can be said to be in effect when bad luck extends through an individual's entire life, metamorphosing said individual into a bitter, black-hearted, wretched mass of seething envy whenever good fortune is perceived in another.
The existence of Murphy's Law is said to be a physical representation of a universe that is constantly balancing as per Newton's third law of motion1, first expressed in the Principia. Another theory suggests this is utter nonsense.