The Great Murphy (and Miscellaneous) Laws Collection

These laws are from a collection I have, and this is a small sample.  It is believed by some that many of the laws currently attributed to Murphy were in fact written by someone else with the same name - please bear this in mind when quoting, as such mistakes can be very embarrassing.


Laws Governing Everyday Life

Firestone's Law of Forecasting:

Chicken Little only has to be right once.
Manly's Maxim:
Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.
Grizzard's truism:
The trouble with most jobs is the job holder's resemblance to being one of a sled dog team.
No one gets a change of scenery except the lead dog.
Cannon's Comment:
If you tell the boss you were late for work because you had a flat tyre, the next morning you will have a flat tyre.
If anything can go wrong, it will.
Murphy's First Corollary:
Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
Any attempt on your part to correct this will only accelerate the process.
Murphy's Second Corollary:
It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious
Murphy's Constant:
Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to its value
Quantised Revision of Murphy's Law:
Everything goes wrong all at once.
O'Toole's Commentary:
Murphy was an optimist.
Finagle's Fourth Law:
Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it only makes it worse.
Gumperson's Law:
The probability of anything happening is in inverse ratio to its desirability.
Rudin's Law:
In crises that force people to choose among alternative courses of action, most people will choose the worst one possible.
Ginsberg's Restatement of the Three Laws of Thermodynamics:
You can't win.
You can't break even.
You can't quit.
Three Laws of Thermodynamics:
First Law: You cannot win, you can only break even;
Second Law: You can only break even at absolute zero;
Third Law: You cannot attain absolute zero.
Hofstadter’s Law:
Everything takes longer than you think, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.  (Douglas Hofstadter, mathematician and philosopher)
Ehrman's Commentary
Things will get worse before they will get better.
Who said things would get better?
Commoner's Second Law of Ecology:
Nothing ever goes away.
Howe's Law:
Everyone has a scheme that will not work.
Zymurgy's First Law of Evolving Systems Dynamics:
Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a bigger can.
Non-Reciprocal Law of Expectations:
Negative expectations yield negative results.
Positive expectations yield negative results.
Klipstein's Laws:
Tolerances will accumulate unidirectionally toward maximum difficulty of assembly.
Interchangeable parts won't.
You never find a lost article until you replace it.
Glatum's Law of Materialistic Acquisitiveness:
The perceived usefulness of an article is inversely proportional to its actual usefulness once bought and paid for.
Lewis' Laws:
No matter how long or hard you shop for an item, after you've bought it, it will be on sale somewhere cheaper.
If nobody uses it, there's a reason.
You get the most of what you need the least.
The Aeroplane Law:
When the plane you are on is late, the plane you want to transfer to is on time.
McDonnell Douglas Law of Aeronautics
When the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the plane, the plane will fly.
Etorre's Observation:
The other line moves faster.
O'Brien's Variation:
If you change lines, the one you just left will start to move faster than the one you are now in.
The Queue Principle:
The longer you wait in line, the greater the likelihood that you are in the wrong line.
First Law of Revision:
Information necessitating a change of design will be conveyed to the designer after - and only after - the plans are complete.   -   (Often called the 'Now They Tell Us' Law)
Corollary I:
In simple cases, presenting one obvious right way versus one obvious wrong way,
it is often wiser to choose the wrong way so as to expedite subsequent revision.   -   H.B. Fyfe
Second Law of Revision:
The more innocuous the modification appears to be, the further its influence will extend and the more plans will have to be redrawn.   -   H.B. Fyfe
Third Law of Revision:
If, when completion of a design is imminent, field dimensions are finally supplied as they actually are -- instead of as they were meant to be -- it is always simpler to start all over.
Corollary I:
It is usually impractical to worry beforehand about interferences -- if you have none, someone will make one for you.   -   H.B. Fyfe

Laws of Computer Programming
To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.
  1. Any given program, when running, is obsolete.
  2. Any given program costs more and takes longer.
  3. If a program is useful, it will have to be changed.
  4. If a program is useless, it will have to be documented.
  5. Any program will expand to fill available memory.  (aka Microsoft's Law)
  6. The value of a program is proportional to the weight of its output.
  7. Program complexity grows until it exceeds the capabilities of the programmer who must maintain it.
  8. Any non-trivial program contains at least one bug.
  9. A non-trivial program is defined as any program with more than one line of code
  10. Undetectable errors are infinite in variety, in contrast to detectable errors, which by definition are limited.
  11. Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology:

There's always one more bug.
Shaw's Principle:
Build a system that even a fool can use, and only a fool will want to use it.
Woltman's Law:
Never program and drink beer at the same time.
Gallois' Revelation:
If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out but tomfoolery.  But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled, and no one dares to criticise it.

Laws Governing Inanimate Objects

Law of the Perversity of Nature:

You cannot successfully determine beforehand which side of the bread to butter.
Law of Selective Gravity:
Any object dropped will fall so as to do the most damage.
Jennings' Corollary to the Law of Selective Gravity:
The chance of the bread falling with the butter side down is directly proportional to the value of the carpet.
Wyszkowski's Second Law:
Anything can be made to work if you fiddle with it long enough.
Sattinger's Law:
It works better if you plug it in.
Lowery's Law:
If it jams - force it.
If it breaks, it needed replacing anyway.
Schmidt's Law:
If you mess with a thing long enough, it'll break.
Anthony's Law of Force:
Don't force it - get a bigger hammer.
Cahn's Axiom:
When all else fails, read the instructions.

Laws of Research

Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before.  He is full of murderous
resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.  -  Bokonon

Gordon's First Law:

If a project is not worth doing at all, it's not worth doing well.
Law of Research:
Enough research will tend to support your theory.
Maier's Law:
If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.
Peer's Law:
The solution to the problem changes the problem.

Scott's Second Law:

When an error has been detected and corrected, it will be found to have been correct in the first place.
Finagle's First Law:
If an experiment works, something has gone wrong.
Murphy's Corollary:
Inside every small problem is a large problem struggling to get out.
Finagle's Second Law:
No matter what the experiment's result, there will always be someone eager to:
(a) misinterpret it.
(b) fake it.
(c) believe it supports his own pet theory.
Finagle's Third Law:
In any collection of data, the figure most obviously correct, beyond all need of checking, is the mistake.
Mark's mark:
Love is a matter of chemistry;
Sex is a matter of physics.
Rule of Accuracy:
When working toward the solution of a problem, it always helps if you know the answer.
Wyszowski's Law:
No experiment is reproducible.
Fett's Law:
Never replicate a successful experiment.
Brooke's Law:
Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

First Law of Laboratory Work:

Hot glass looks exactly the same as cold glass.
Handy Guide to Modern Science:
1. If it's green or it wiggles, it's biology.
2. If it stinks, it's chemistry.
3. If it doesn't work, it's physics.
4. If it's incomprehensible, it's mathematics.
5. If it doesn't make sense, it's either economics or psychology.

General Laws

The important thing is never to stop questioning.  -  Albert Einstein

If somebody you thought was your friend disappears owing you one hundred dollars, it was probably worth it. - Anon.

Eat a live toad first thing in the morning and nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of the day.

Korman's conclusions:

The trouble with resisting temptation is it may never come your way again.
Help a man when he is in trouble and he will remember you when he is in trouble again.
You can lead a man to slaughter, but you can't make him think.
Don't get mad, get even.

Carson's Law:

It's better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick.

The Golden Rule:

He who has the gold, makes the rules.

Lennon's Law:

Life is what happens while you are making other plans.  -  Thomas la Mance
Maugham's Thought:
Only a mediocre person is always at his best.
Krueger's Observation:
A taxpayer is someone who does not have to take a civil service exam in order to work for the government.
Benchley's Law of Distinction:
There are two kinds of people in the world:
(a)  those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world
(b)  those who don't.
Harver's Law:
A drunken man's words are a sober man's thoughts.
Schmidt's Observation:
All things being equal, a fat person uses more soap than a thin person.
Gibb's Law:
Infinity is one lawyer waiting for another.
Fools rush in where fools have been before.
Spend sufficient time confirming the need and the need will disappear.
The first Myth of Management:
It exists.
Peter's Placebo:
An ounce of image is worth a pound of performance.
Zymurgy's Law of Volunteer Labour:
People are always available for work in the past tense.
Wicker's Law:
Government expands to absorb revenue and then some.  -  Tom Wicker
Clarke's First Law:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.  When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
Clarke's Second Law:
The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible.
Clarke's Third Law:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Segal's Law:
A man with a watch knows what time it is.
A man with two watches is never sure.
Weiler's Law:
Nothing is impossible for the man who does not have to do it himself.
Weinberg's Second Law:
If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization.
Hartley's Second Law:
Never go to bed with anybody crazier than you are.
Beckhap's Law:
Beauty times brains equals a constant.
Katz's Law:
Men and women will act rationally when all other possibilities have been exhausted.
Cole's Axiom:
The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant;
... the population is growing.
Vique's Law:
A man without a religion is like a fish without a bicycle.
Jones' Motto:
Friends come and go but enemies accumulate.
McClaughry's Codicil:
To make an enemy, do someone a favour.
Churchill's commentary on man:
Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.
The Ultimate Law:
All general statements are false.
The Unspeakable Law:
As soon as you mention something ...
(a)  if it is good, it goes away.
(b)  if it is bad, it happens.
The Whispered Rule:
People will believe anything if you whisper it.
The First Law of Wing Walking:
Never let go of what you've got until you've got hold of something else.

Arnsdick's corollary:

After things have gone from bad to worse, the cycle will repeat itself.
Lynch's Law:
When the going gets tough, everybody leaves.
Law of Revelation:
The hidden flaw never remains hidden.
Langsam's Law:
Everything depends.
Hellrung's Law:
If you wait, it will go away.
Shevelson's Extension:
... having done its damage.
Grelb's Addition:
... if it was bad, it will be back.
Grossman's Misquote:
Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers.
Ducharme's Precept:
Opportunity always knocks at the least opportune moment.
First Postulate of Isomorphism:
Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.
The Inapplicable Law:
Washing your car to make it rain doesn't work.
Witten's Law:
Whenever you cut your fingernails, you will find a need for them an hour later.
Perkin's postulate:
The bigger they are, the harder they hit.
Harrison's Postulate:
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
Conway's Law:
In every organization there will always be one person who knows what is going on.
... This person must be fired.
Stewart's Law of Retroaction:
It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.
MacDonald's Second Law:
Consultants are mystical people who ask a company for a number and give it back to them.
The Sausage Principle:
People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either one being made.
Horngren's Observation: (generalised)
The real world is a special case.
Merkin's Maxim:
When in doubt, predict that the present trend will continue.
Hawkin's Theory of Progress:
Progress does not consist of replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is right.  It consists of replacing a theory that is wrong with one that is more subtly wrong.
Hanlon's Razor:
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Matz's warning:
Beware of the physician who is great at getting out of trouble.
Gold's Law:
If the shoe fits, it's ugly.
Lewis' Law:
People will buy anything that's one to a customer.   -   Sinclair Lewis

Law of Reruns:

If you have watched a TV series only once, and you watch it again, it will be a rerun of the same episode.
Shirley's Laws:
Most people deserve each other.
Forgive and remember.
Galbraith's Law of Political Wisdom:
Anyone who says he is not going to resign, four times, definitely will.
Allen's Law:
Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.
Allen's Distinction:
The lion and the calf shall lie down together, but the calf won't get much sleep.

Avery's Observation:

It does not matter if you fall down as long as you pick up something from the floor while you get up.
Berra's Law:
You can observe a lot just by watching.
Bicycle Law:
All bicycles weigh 25 kilograms:
A 15 kilogram bicycle needs a 10 kilogram lock.
A 20 kilogram bicycle needs a 5 kilogram lock.
A 25 kilogram bicycle doesn't need a lock.
Cohen's Law:
What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts, not the facts themselves.
Colson's Law:
When you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.
Comins' Law:
People will accept your idea much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.
Fourth Law of Thermodynamics:
If the probability of success is not almost one, then it is damned near zero.
Gerrold's Laws of Infernal Dynamics:
1.  An object in motion will be heading in the wrong direction.
2.  An object at rest will be in the wrong place.
Goldwyn's Law of Contracts.
A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.
Jacquin's Postulate on Democratic Government:
No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.
Jones' Principle:
Needs are a function of what other people have.
Langin's Law:
If things were left to chance, they'd be better.

Mencken's Metalaw:

For every human problem, there is a neat, simple solution;
... and it is always wrong.
Sevareid's Law:
The chief cause of problems is solutions.
Thoreau's Law:
If you see a man approaching you with the obvious intention of doing you good, you should run for your life.
Peer's Law:
The solution to the problem changes the problem.
Lyall's Conjecture:
If a computer cable has one end, then it has another.
Lyall's Fundamental Observation:
The most important leg of a three legged stool is the one that's missing.
Pournelle's Law of Costs and Schedules:
Everything costs more and takes longer.
Klipstein's Lament:
All warranty and guarantee clauses are voided by payment of the invoice.
Klipstein's Observation:
Any product cut to length will be too short.
Sueker's Note:
If you need "n" items of anything, you will have "n - 1" in stock.
Rosenfield's Regret:
The most delicate component will be dropped.
de la Lastra's Law:
After the last of 16 mounting screws has been removed from an access cover, it will be discovered that the wrong access cover has been removed.
de la Lastra's Corollary:
After an access cover has been secured by 16 hold-down screws, it will be discovered that the gasket has been omitted.

Gerrold's Fundamental Truth:

It's a good thing money can't buy happiness.
... We couldn't stand the commercials.
Gerrold's Law:
A little ignorance can go a long way.

Lyall's Addendum:

... in the direction of maximum harm.
Gerrold's Pronouncement:
The difference between a politician and a snail is that a snail leaves its slime behind.

When a man laughs at his misfortunes, he loses a great many friends.  They never forgive the loss of their prerogative.

Arcana Ecclesiastica:

Archbishop - A Christian ecclesiastic of a rank superior to that obtained by Christ.
The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.   -   H. L. Mencken

The Arithmetic of Cooperation:

When you're adding up committees
there's a useful rule of thumb:
That talents make a difference,
and follies make a sum.  -  Piet Hein
The Ultimate Wisdom
Philosophers must ultimately find their true perfection in knowing all the follies of mankind by introspection.  -   Piet Hein

You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.  -  Dorothy Parker

In America, it's not how much an item costs that matters, it's how much you save.

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, maybe you just don't understand the situation.

Never play leapfrog with a unicorn.

Design flaws travel in groups.

You can't fight the law of conservation of energy but you sure can bargain with it.

From H. L. Mencken ...

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sure sign he expects to be paid for it.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.

Adultery is the application of democracy to love.

Sin is a dangerous toy in the hands of the virtuous.  It should be left to the congenitally sinful who know when to play with it and when to leave it alone.

In human history, a moral victory is always a disaster for it debauches and degrades both the victor and the vanquished.

There is only one sound argument for democracy, and that is the argument that it is a crime for any man to hold himself out as better than other men, and, above all, a most heinous crime for him to prove it.

Murphy's Military Laws

1.  Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than you are.

2.  No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.   -  Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke

3.  Friendly fire isn't.

4.  The most dangerous thing in the combat zone is an officer with a map.

5.  The problem with taking the easy way out is that the enemy has already mined it.

6.  The buddy system is essential to your survival; it gives the enemy somebody else to shoot at.

7.  The further you are in advance of your own positions, the more likely your artillery will shoot short.

8.  Incoming fire has the right of way.

9.  If your advance is going well, you are walking into an ambush.

10. The quartermaster has only two sizes, too large and too small.

11. If you really need an officer in a hurry, take a nap.

12. The only time suppressive fire works is when it is used on abandoned positions.

13. The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.

14. There is nothing more satisfying than having someone take a shot at you, and miss.

14a.   There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.  -  Winston Churchill

15. Don't be conspicuous.  In the combat zone, it draws fire.  Out of the combat zone, it draws sergeants.

16. If your sergeant can see you, so can the enemy.

17. Never worry about the bullet with your name on it.  Instead, worry about shrapnel addressed to 'occupant'.

18. All battles are fought at the junction of two or more map sheets.

18.1 ...printed at different scales;
18.2 ...uphill;
18.3 ...and in the rain.

19. Logistics is the ball and chain of armoured warfare.  -  Heinz Guderian

20. The army with the smartest dress uniform will lose.

21. What gets you promoted from one rank gets you killed in the next rank.

22. A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.  -  George Patton

23. If orders can be misunderstood, they have been.

24. Tracer works both ways.

25. If the enemy is in range, so are you.

26. War is like love. To triumph, you must make contact.  -  Attributed to Napoleon

27. Boldness becomes rarer, the higher the rank.  -  Karl von Clausewitz

28. Never reinforce failure. Failure reinforces itself.

29. Only 5% of an intelligence report is accurate. The trick of a good commander is to isolate the 5%.  -  Douglas MacArthur

30. Tactics is for amateurs; professionals study logistics.

31. When a front line soldier overhears two General Staff officers conferring, he's fallen back too far.

32. It isn't necessary to be an idiot to be a senior officer, but it sure helps.

33. No captain can do very wrong who places his ship alongside that of the enemy.  -  Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson

34: Only numbers can annihilate.  -  Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson

35a. Always know when it's time to get out of Dodge.

35b. Always know how to get out of Dodge.

36. Your equipment was made by the lowest bidder.

37. Priorities are made by officers, not God. There's a difference.

38. Always honour a threat.

39. The weight of all of your equipment is proportional to the cube of the time you have been carrying it.

40. Hell hath no fury like a non-combatant.  -  Charles Edward Montague

41. Fighter pilots make movies; attack pilots make history.

42. There are two kinds of naval vessels: submarines and targets.

43. A lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost.  -  Ferdinand Foch (Principles de Guerre)

44. Surprise is an event that takes place in the mind of a commander.  -  Jerry Pournelle

45. All warfare is based on deception.  -  Sun Tzu (The Art of War)

46. A little caution outflanks a large cavalry.  -  Otto von Bismark

47. No combat ready squad ever passed inspection.  No inspection ready squad ever passed combat.

48. Five second grenade fuses burn down in three seconds.

49. The enemy diversion you are ignoring is the main attack.

50. Radios function perfectly until you need fire support.

51. If you take more than your fair share of objectives, you will have more than your fair share to take.

52. Professional soldiers are predictable, but the world is full of amateurs.

53. Parade ground inspections are to combat readiness as mess hall food is to cuisine.

54. When in doubt empty the magazine.

55. Snow is not neutral.  -  Frunze Military Academy Maxim

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