Talk:Murphy's law

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Differentiating Finagle's Law and Murphy's Law[edit]

I think we need to draw the line between Finagle's Law and Murphy's Law. Essentially, Finagle's Law is the law of pessimism, stating that there is effectively no point trying something because it will always go wrong. Murphy's Law is a law of hope, in many ways, in that it refers to the fact that if there is more than one way to do something, someone will do it the wrong way. I don't have any problems with people removing the bit that I added, given that it would require a slight redress of the article as well as sourcing of reliable references. This may also influence whether we consider the Plenitude principle outlined above. Cyril Washbrook 00:20, 1 May 2006 (UTC)

I agree with this completely. I have long believed that the original statement of Murphy's Law was made by Murphy himself and went "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.", but my only source for this is the Jargon File entry here, which in turn makes no citations at all. Since the entire article is essentially based on the more general Finagle's Law, I didn't feel like I could Be Bold and change the article based on a single tertiary source that in turn makes no citations. Any other sources for the "two or more ways" version? Proginoskes (talk) 16:03, 10 February 2009 (UTC)
I also agree with this (rather late I know...). I read it in Karl Kruszelnicki's book "Fidgeting Fat, Exploding Meat & Gobbling Whirly Birds", the section on Murphy's law is freely available here That said, he doesn't have any further references either. (talk) 05:18, 24 November 2010 (UTC)

Shute lead on the history of Murphy's law[edit]

I have heard that Murphy was a Wartime Air Ministry official who signed off a directive to the aircraft manufactueres which demmaded that all parts must be made so that they could only fit one way around when connecting them. This is mentioned in Nevil Shute's autobiography Slide Rule, which deals with his life in England, and hids time in teh aircraft industry.

Checked Slide Rule and couldn't find the above, though I may have missed. Nrlsouza (talk) 10:50, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
I think the OP is referring to a book by that title, not the calculating instrument. SpinningSpark 15:10, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
There is no doubt that the OP is referring to Nevil Shute Norway's autobiography, entitled Slide Rule. I have checked the OP lead that this autobiography might suggest a (presumably) British origin for Murphy's law, within the aeronautical industry context and yet pre-dating the American origin described in the article which the present talk page is about. None of this is to be found in this autobiography, though I may have missed. Nrlsouza (talk) 13:39, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

Origin - The history and true story of Murphy law[edit]

This page claims to have information regarding the history and true story of Murphy law. Anyone can confirm it??? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Rahul286 (talkcontribs) 18:44, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

This is basically what's in the article now, in the Association with Murphy section. Lexicographers, incidentally, view the Edwards Air Force Base story with great skepticism, noting that the "law" itself is older, that early explanations of the name "Murphy" make no reference to the incident and sometimes give other explanations, and that the supposed origin was not presented as such until long after the event. However, it has not been categorically disproved. John M Baker (talk) 19:11, 15 July 2009 (UTC)
wouldn't if anything can be done wrong, it will be done wrong (eg in the apparent paraphrasing of robert murphy's recollection) be a more precise form of the law in the context both holt and murphy are said to have meant it, if not implicitly what Dr. Stapp meant when he is said to have coined it (on the page previously referred to), as distinct from "sod's law" and the futility of planning against the unknown? you could substitute 'incorrectly' or even 'disastrously incorrectly' for 'wrong' to be perhaps even closer to his (ie murphy's) presumed intention (or just more grammatically correct), to the effect that things should be engineered such that mistakes with serious consequences cannot be made. (talk) 13:42, 18 February 2011 (UTC)

Tech Support Corollary[edit]

The Tech Support Corollary: The only time the (software, gadget, car, whatever) works is when you (call tech support/take it to be fixed).Jimwelch4 (talk) 20:43, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

Variations referencing[edit]

Some of the referencing in the "Variations" section is a bit dubious (or missing altogether). For instance the claim that Sod's law is a superset of Murphy's is referenced to Chambers dictionary. I cannot find this in my copy of Chambers under either "Murphy" or "sod". Admittedly, my copy is a bit ancient and not the edition cited. Can someone with a recent edition look it up and report exactly what they say? SpinningSpark 08:33, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

Timing of the Muroc scenario; Point of view of the Association with Murphy section[edit]

Here are two separate items bundled in one section, relating each to consistency issues of the present article, and which can hopefully be fixed easily:

  • In the History section, the Robertson interview is said to predate the Muroc scenario, the latter being indicated to occur in or after June 1949. However in the last paragraph of the Association with Murphy section, reference is made to the '1948 incident' at Muroc. Before someone familiar with the relevant literature fixes this, I think it is important to ensure that events of a similar nature are timed relative to each other, and perhaps to make this choice explicit: Either the time of the Robertson interview (Q1 1949) relative to that of the actual incident at Muroc (a few months in 1948 or 1949?); Or the publication time of Robertson's interview by Roe (05/1951) relative to the first press conference where Stapp mentioned Murphy's law (1949?).
  • The first four paragraphs in the Association with Murphy section seem to be derived from Spark's research and that is fine by itself. However I find that the following sentences lack neutrality in the fourth paragraph, for the reason described below:
'Stapp's usage and Murphy's alleged usage are very different in outlook and attitude. One is sour, the other an affirmation of the predictable being surmountable, usually by sufficient planning and redundancy.'

The end of the third paragraph relates accounts of 'others, including [...] Robert Murphy' but these accounts are not pursued in the fourth paragraph, which effectively wraps up the bit of history under consideration. Is one side more credible than the other as far as 'Murphy's alleged usage'? Aren't Stapp's usage and Murphy's other alleged usage similar in fact, rather than 'very different'. This lack of consensus is more clearly apparent when reading the bio articles for John Stapp and Edward Murphy in their respective versions, current per the time of this talk contribution. While again it is fine to echo Spark's research, I think the Association with Murphy should convey the consensus (or lack thereof) more accurately.

This second item does not question that Stapp may have done most or all of the work to promote Murphy's law in engineering, and actually this could be clearly stated in this article.

Nrlsouza (talk) 13:10, 4 January 2011 (UTC)


Entropy has fuckall to do with disorder. On the contrary, increasing entropy is the decline of disorder, not it's rise. Entropy is movement towards equilibrium. The stupidity marked dubious is borne of people conflating the colloquial meaning of entropy with the scientific definition. 06:41, 13 July 2011 (UTC). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 06:41, 13 July 2011

[1][2][3][4][5] SpinningSpark 15:34, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Merge (2011)[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.


I've proposed the article A History of Murphy's Law be merged into here (if not deleted completely); it's hard to see why it merits and article of its own. --jpgordon::==( o ) 21:34, 10 September 2011 (UTC)

  • Delete - We're already using the History of Murphy's Law as a source here. It doesn't need its own page. Jojalozzo 01:24, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Merge or Delete - The substance of A History of Murphy's Law is already in the Murphy's Law article, so there isn't much difference between the two. John M Baker (talk) 16:52, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Requested move (2011)[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

No consensus to move. Vegaswikian (talk) 01:57, 26 September 2011 (UTC)

Murphy's lawMurphy's Law

Per WP:COMMONNAME. Proper names in wikipedia are capitalized. It appears capitalized in most books[6] and in Merriam-Webter dictionary [7]. --Enric Naval (talk) 11:28, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

  • Oppose - It's not a proper name. The MoS guidelines do not support capitalizing the names of ideas and concepts. An informal search of article titles resulted in the following:
  1. Amdahl's law
  2. Beer-Lambert law
  3. De Morgan's laws
  4. Gall's law
  5. Gibson's law
  6. Godwin's law
  7. Kleiber's law
  8. Kranzberg's laws of technology
  9. Moore's law
  10. Ohm's law
  11. Peirce's law
  12. Planck's law
  13. Plateau's laws
  14. Shannon's law
  15. Stevens' power law
  16. Weber-Fechner law
  17. Wirth's law
  18. Zipf's law
  1. Parkinson's Law
  2. Ricco's Law
Only two capitalize "Law" and both appear to be candidates for down-casing.
I suspect the n-gram results are due to the popularity of Murphy's law and the prevailing capitalization style of popular media. Jojalozzo 14:17, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Merriam-Webster says that this is a noun.
Scholar sources also use uppercase, for example European Journal of Physics journal [8], The Wilson Quarterly journal [9], Vancouver Law Review[10], School Science Review journal [11], Springer books [12][13], an Oxford University Press book [14]. Also "The new office professional's handbook" by American Heritage Dictionary [15], "The Copyeditor's Handbook" by California University Press[16]. On what do you base your claims about popular media? --Enric Naval (talk) 21:24, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Certainly "law" is a noun but only some nouns are a proper names and "law" is not one of them.. Jojalozzo 01:34, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
I didn't make any "claims" about popular media. Do you have any ideas about why the n-gram search shows Murphy's "law" is up-cased most often but shows other instances of people's laws are down-cased most often? (I didn't check them all but the ones I tested were all down-cased more then up-cased.) Why should Murphy's law be an exception on Wikipedia? Jojalozzo 01:49, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
(you said that the capitalization was due to "the prevailing capitalization style of popular media", but the capitalization also happens in scholar media)
Physics laws are not capitalized, but popular and ficticious laws are. Ngrams shows several upcased laws, none of them are physics laws:
With some economics and computers laws giving 50-50 results:
Looks pretty consistent to me. Fictious laws bear an uppercase word "Law". If you look at physics theorems you will find that all have a downcased word "law". --Enric Naval (talk) 08:44, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
We are thinking along the same lines. This analysis supports my theory (it never was a claim!) that it's the popular press which is much responsible for capitalizing "law" for what are better termed "adages" or "aphorisms". I think this level of discussion extends beyond the issue of this article and while you were composing this, I started a generic discussion on the question of an exception to the style guide for these popular and fictional expressions at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Capital letters#Names of "laws" (adages). This material would be a constructive contribution there. Jojalozzo 18:48, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
Comments/quibbles on your research:
Jojalozzo 19:23, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
OK, I'll comment there. --Enric Naval (talk) 21:09, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Jojalozzo and WP:CAPS and MOS:CAP. The counter-examples no longer are by the way. SpinningSpark 16:23, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
I understand that moving those pages is a no-brainer but modifying data/evidence during a discussion such as this not only can be confusing but it may also challenge good faith assumptions and weaken the collegial nature of our work. Jojalozzo 16:50, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Parkinson's Law is mostly capitalized, [17] isn't. Following WP:COMMONNAME, the first one would be at the capitalized form and the second one wouldn't. And please, wikipedia is not a reliable source, conclusions about common usage in English should be made from reliable sources. --Enric Naval (talk) 17:17, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
@Jojalozzo. I am confused and slightly hurt that you raise issues of good faith. I would have made those edits regardless of this discussion, it is just that your list brought them to my attention. This discussion is not about those articles, mey edits stand or fall according to their relevance there. There is no tampering with data: your list still reflects how the articles were before I edited them. SpinningSpark 18:18, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I meant my "no-brainer" comment to convey that my assumptions of good faith were unaffected. However, I am somewhat surprised you don't see the downside of editing pages that are related to an ongoing discussion. Jojalozzo 01:34, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
As I see it, those pages are not related to the discussion. This discussion concerns Murphy's law only: if it was intended to have a discussion on some wider policy issue involving multiple pages then the discussion should not be here - it should be on a policy page or WP:VP/P. I agree that editing text under discussion is often not helpful and I would not have dreamt of changing the capitalisation in Murphy's law while this discussion was unresolved, but it is going too far to extend that to other pages or other aspects of the same page. I was merely implementing existing policy/guidelines and this is not (or should not be) a discussion to change policy/guidelines. SpinningSpark 15:34, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
@Enric Naval. Testing by Google does not apply here. Capitalisation is a matter of house/author style and Wikipedia has its own style guides regardless of what any other publishers and authors do. SpinningSpark 18:18, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
You mean that we can ignore how reliable sources spell the names of stuff? --Enric Naval (talk) 18:56, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
No...I meant that capitalisation is a matter of house/author style and Wikipedia has its own style guides. SpinningSpark 19:46, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Well, our guidelines say to capitalize proper names, and Merriam-Webster says that this is a noun[18]. The Learner's edition says that it's a countable noun[19] --Enric Naval (talk) 21:24, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
What is a "countable noun"? Is it related to capitalization? Jojalozzo 01:34, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
I see from your recent contributions that you found a List of eponymous laws. Despite your attempts to up-case some of these, the list clearly shows that we have a very consistent house style that does not capitalize "law" in these articles and that those that do up-case "Law" are extreme outliers. I think we can stop this discussion now unless you are making a claim for an exception to the house style for Murphy's law. Jojalozzo 04:15, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
Not consistent at all. One editor decided that all articles had to follow the same capitalization and started moving articles.
Anyways, see The new office professional's handbook, by American Heritage Dictionary "Capitalize the proper nouns in chemistry and physics theorems and laws, and capitalize the word Law in popular, fictitious names and laws."[20]. Looks like made-up law are usually capitalized, but physics laws aren't. --Enric Naval (talk) 08:44, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
And, from other RM request, it looks like the Oxford English Dictionary also capitalizes Murphy's Law. --Enric Naval (talk) 16:08, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
When I asked, Merriam Websters told me they up-cased Law for Murphy's and down-cased law for Moore's because of usage. This makes sense since dictionaries are usage-based - style for them does not impact capitalization of entries. It's not at all clear to me that this project should adopt that model since we're all about the subject matter not usage and a consistent style for similar subjects improves communication of content. That's not to say we couldn't identify some class(es) of "laws" all of which should be consistently up-cased. Jojalozzo 18:58, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Downcase except for proper names within. Tony (talk) 04:47, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

All this because an "L" isn't capitalized? --THE FOUNDERS INTENT PRAISE 15:55, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

You get what you pay for. And this whole project is written by unpaid volunteers.... --Enric Naval (talk) 17:20, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
Sorry to hear that, I got a raise last week. ;) --THE FOUNDERS INTENT PRAISE 17:21, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
Oppose. This is not a matter of attempting to track the wayward usages of "reliable sources"; it is a matter of Wikipedia's established styles – in this case, style for which there is a guideline at WP:MOSCAPS. The first sentence there gives the basic idea: "Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization." Here is the most relevant of the specific provisions: "In science and mathematics, only proper names that are part of a name for an idea should be capitalized (Hermitian matrix, Lorentz transformation). A small number of exceptions exist (abelian group)." (Needs amending to a higher standard of linguistic literacy, but the message is plain to see.) Clearly, "Murphy's law" fits this template. It purports to be a scientific principle, and its whimsicality is no warrant for special treatment. Keep it simple; keep it consistent; and give short shrift to this rash of RMs that ignores Wikipedia's prerogative in setting and maintaining standards – which every other encyclopedia does as a matter of course.
NoeticaTea? 00:58, 23 September 2011 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

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"Thus Stapp's usage and Murphy's alleged usage are very different in outlook and attitude."[edit]

This seems a bit like original research. Stapp just says that he keeps Murphy's law in mind when designing his experiments. If the Wright Brothers told the world that they followed the law of "what goes up must come down" would we say their usage was different than the intent of the law? Citation needed, please. Fotoguzzi (talk) 19:47, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

Suggestions for reordering the article.[edit]

The kernel (or Colonel) of the story is Stapp using Murphy's name. I would recommend something like: 1) Short definition of the "law." 2) History of the law 2a) Stapp's public comment. 2) Summary of conflicting stories about Murphy and the origin of the law. 3) Prior expressions of the Murphy's law concept.

This gets the undisputed facts of the story first: Stapp mentioned Murphy, there was a Murphy, there was a story that can kind-of be put together. Then the rest of the article can explain that the idea is not by any means old. Fotoguzzi (talk) 20:15, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

Merge with Sod's law (2014)[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

[21] No merge

They are the same thing. Serendipodous 08:34, 19 May 2014 (UTC)

There are templates (Template:Merge/doc) that are supposed to be placed at the head of articles proposed to merge. Please use them. The templates on both articles should link to the same discussion. Please choose one talk page or the other and close down the other discussion. Opening two parallel discussions has the possibility that they will come to different conclusions which will not be useful. SpinningSpark 11:16, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
Done. Serendipodous 11:56, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. It might be that the two adages have the same meaning (but there is discussion on the Sod's law talk page disputing that and the article itself says they are not the same) but they are not the same adage. There are many such adages: "the law of Cosmic Buggery" is one used in my part of the world. If you want an article covering all these sayings you should create Laws of universal pessimism or some such title. Further, Sod's law is completley unreferenced. I don't see the point of polluting this article with unsourced material when we have the benefit here of Spark's book on the subject and Shapiro's research. At a minimum, good sources saying these are the same or demonstrating that one was derived from the other are required. SpinningSpark 13:01, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The politics of whether Murphy's Law is primary with Sod's Law being a sub-section/redirect, or the other way around, is enough to invoke both Murphy's and Sod's Laws. King Arthur6687 (talk) 07:25, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Self fulfilling prophecy[edit]

These 2 articles should be linked. Murphy is a great exmaple of a self-fulfilling prophecy. if you thikn bad things will happen.. they will! (talk) 11:15, 8 June 2014 (UTC)

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mrs murphy's law merge[edit]