Catching a glimpse of Murphy’s Law | Sunday Observer

Catching a glimpse of Murphy’s Law

I do not think that a comprehensive definition of the term ‘law’ has been given by anybody. Law is not a logical summing up of human experiences. It is a collection of orders, decisions, conventions, and compromises rooted in history.In a way, law tries to regulate human behaviour. However, all the people are not law-abiding citizens. There are people who break the law. On such occasions, the state has to punish the law breaker. This is common to all countries whether they are monarchies, oligarchies, republics or communist federations.

The fear of punishment keeps most people away from committing crimes and civil wrongs. Some people obey the law because they have been brought up to do so.

Sometimes we obey unjust laws that irritate us because it is better to obey than to rebel. For instance, a rich man will be compelled to pay an enhanced amount of tax than a poor person. On the other hand, most people consider that breaking the law is shameful. As you can see, it is perhaps impossible to say exactly what a law is. Luckily, this does not prevent us from obeying, using and understanding laws.

Traditionally, laws are passed by a king or a parliament. Such laws are usually codified and are available to lawyers and the layman. However, there are laws which have never been codified but available everywhere. For instance, Murphy’s Law is the science behind life’s little annoyances. After shifting house we usually forget where we put a bunch of keys or an important file.

When some such event happens, you come to the conclusion that somebody has filched it. On some occasions, we find only one sock out of a pair. When you go to office you see the red line drawn in the attendance register. That means you are late and you may have to forgo a small portion of your salary as a punishment. Such misfortunes happen to almost everybody. What do we do then?


According to Murphy’s Law, if something can go wrong, it will. If you deserve a promotion, you will get it. Even great warriors such as Hannibal have met with failures. Emperors are killed in the battlefield. We cannot explain why such events take place. If you know a little bit of Murphy’s Law, you will see that there will be some solution to such problems. Murphy’s Law is not a product of our selective memory. That means we cannot recall such an event after some time of its happening. However, those who are familiar with Murphy’s Law will vouch for its practical utility. What will happen when a slice of bread falls off a table? Just pick it up and examine it. You will find that the slice of bread has landed butter side down. Anybody who is willing to throw away a few slices of bread can try this experiment.

If you do not wish to waste a few slices of bread, just drop a paperback on the floor. It will always land face down. It is unlikely that any scientist has carried out an experiment with slices of bread or a paperback. But, the fact remains that they follow a certain pattern.

In some banks and post offices you find long queues. If you stand in one queue, you will note that the other queue is moving faster than yours. This always happens when you are worried about delays in queues. A similar incident could occur when you drive along a particular lane on a highway. You will note that the vehicles on the other lane move faster than those in your lane. We usually carry an umbrella on rainy days. On a bright day you leave your umbrella at home and proceed towards your destination. All of a sudden it starts raining. You blame yourself for not bringing an umbrella. On the other hand, when the Meteorological Department forecasts rain, there will be no rain. Meteorologists claim that their predictions are quite accurate, but why do they go wrong at times? According to Murphy’s Law, it’s 10 times more likely not to rain, whatever the Meteorological people have to say.


Murphy’s Law would have been there even before Captain Edward A. Murphy Jnr. discovered that every electrode had been wired incorrectly. When he made the discovery, Murphy was only a student of engineering. He also said, “If there are two or more ways of doing something, and one of them can lead to a catastrophe, then someone will do it.”

Murphy presented his views at a press conference. It was an excellent assumption on safety in critical engineering. Before long, others transformed his views into a statement that would apply to everyday events. Probably, Murphy could not have prevented others from adding novel ideas into Murphy’s Law. Murphy is supposed to have fallen victim to his own law!

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