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Murphy's Law
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humour (Or "Sod's Law") The correct, *original* Murphy's Law
reads: "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." This is a principle of defensive design, cited here
because it is usually given in mutant forms less descriptive
of the challenges of design for lusers. For example, you
don't make a two-pin plug symmetrical and then label it "THIS
WAY UP"; if it matters which way it is plugged in, then you
make the design asymmetrical (see also the anecdote under
Edward A. Murphy, Jr. was one of the engineers on the
rocket-sled experiments that were done by the US Air Force in
1949 to test human acceleration tolerances (USAF project
MX981). One experiment involved a set of 16 accelerometers
mounted to different parts of the subject's body. There were
two ways each sensor could be glued to its mount, and somebody
methodically installed all 16 the wrong way around. Murphy
then made the original form of his pronouncement, which the
test subject (Major John Paul Stapp) quoted at a news
conference a few days later.
Within months "Murphy's Law' had spread to various technical
cultures connected to aerospace engineering. Before too many
years had gone by variants had passed into the popular
imagination, changing as they went. Most of these are
variants on "Anything that can go wrong, will"; this is
sometimes referred to as Finagle's Law. The memetic drift
apparent in these mutants clearly demonstrates Murphy's Law
acting on itself!