Murphy's Law
"If anything can go wrong, it will!"

The Orginal Murphy's Law states:

"If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those can result in catastrophe, then someone will do it."
Edward A. Murphy

Fasten your seatbelts!
The origins of Murphy's Law is a story of space, science fiction and seat belts.

Early in the '50s, with the advent of jet aircraft there was a debate as to whether a pilot could safely eject from the aircraft.  In order to find out whether a man could survive the stresses of ejection the Air Force undertook a study (USAF project MX981).  The study involved shooting a rocket sled down a track, accelerating its passenger to speeds in excess of 630 miles of hour and then suddenly stopping in 1.4 seconds, generating over 40g's.

One experiment involved a set of 16 accelerometers mounted in different parts of the subject's body.  There were two ways each sensor could be glued to its mount.  And of course, each was installed the wrong way! One of the engineers on the project, Edward A. Murphy, made the original pronouncement of Murphy's Law, "If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those can result in catastrophe, then someone will do it." The test subject, Major John Paul's Stapp an Air Force flight surgeon leading the project, quoted Murphy in a press conference a few days later.  Within months, Murphy's Law had spread to various technical cultures connected to aerospace engineering and finally to Webster's dictionary in 1958.

Major Stapp's research helped develop new passenger restraints and ejection systems for the Air Force.  This research also found his way to your car and in fact during the '60s the Air Force sent Stapp to work for the newly formed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  In fact, if you want attend the automobile industry's annual conference on crashing your car, it is named after Stapp.
The traditional version of Murphy's Law, "If anything can go wrong, it will", is actually Finagle's Law of dynamic negatives.  Finagle's Law was popularized by science-fiction author Larry Niven in several stories depicting a frontier culture of astroid miners; this "belter" culture had a religion and running joke involving the worship of the dread God Finagle and his madman prophet Murphy.

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Created 3-18-99