Have you ever had the experience where the worst possible thing happened at the worst possible moment and tried to find some solace in the words 'Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong?'. In today’s episode, our host Bronwen discusses Murphy’s Law, one of the most well-known and oft-quoted eponymous universal truths in popular culture. We explore the various origins of its central thesis and how it was popularized in the 1950s during a press conference. We examine how the Law’s prominence continued to be fueled by its inclusion in works such as The Making of a Scientist, and Men, Rockets and Space Rats, and how the release of the book Murphy's Law and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong, which included various laws and aphorisms, was particularly successful at popularizing the expression on a global scale. Later we reflect on how Murphy’s law is intertwined with the concept of fatalism and why it has survived and thrived for decades in the public imagination. For all this and more, tune in today!
Key Points From This Episode:
- What research into the topic of Murphy’s Law revealed to Bronwen.
- Bronwen lists eponymous laws like Fulton’s law and Parkinson’s law.
- Many of these adages like ‘Work expands to time allowed’ are considered universal truths but aren’t commonly known to have official names.
- Eponymous laws like Occham’s razor that many of us are familiar with.
- The most well-known of these laws is Murphy’s Law ‘Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.’
- We explore the origins of Murphy’s Law and the figure it’s attributed to.
- The various high-stakes technical activities that the concept of Murphy’s Law originated in like sailing, mountaineering, and engineering.
- The story of Dr. Stapp and how his commitment drastically improved car safety.
- How the term Murphy’s Law was popularized at a press conference by Dr. Stapp.
- George Nichols disputes over the origin of Murphy’s Law.
- The various offshoots of Murphy’s Law like ‘nothing is as easy as it looks.'
- How these various offshoots apply to specific scenarios in life like relationships and productivity.
- Murphy’s frustration with the colloquial application of Murphy’s Law in everyday scenarios.
- Why Murphy’s law continues to remain a popular part of our collective knowledge.
- How Murphy’s Law relates to fatalism.
- Why Murphy’s law is correct and why it can’t be proven.
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode: