There are those rare times when you connect with someone and you say to yourself, “Hey, this person is really on my wavelength.” And so it was with Karin when I chatted with her about her blog and read this line in one of her posts.

“I am quite possibly the worst sheet-folder ever raised in the western world.”

Perhaps it was an inkling that she somehow possessed a similar warped sense of humour to myself. Or maybe it was because she answered my silly questions without huffing and puffing and running away. Anyway. The upshot is that Karin Kysilka is the very first person I have asked to be a guest blogger. And fortunately for both myself and my readers, she accepted. Hopefully we can look forward to reading more of Karin here and on her blog, which you now must visit after reading this or you will be instantly cursed for a period of two weeks by Karin’s Murphy guy.

Who the Heck is This Murphy Guy Anyway?

Sometime in the past century, some person we like to call, “Murphy” said something like, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” and from that point, that little quotable adage was called, “Murphy’s Law.”

I have a little problem with this story.  Okay, I have a big problem with this story.  Who the heck is this Murphy guy, anyway, and who gave him the authority to write a law?

Murphy’s law was “law” before I was old enough to vote (before I was even born, actually), and I don’t remember reading about him in any of my physics textbooks.  None of the senior citizens I know recall voting for him either, and no one mentions him on The Science Channel as a great theoretical physicist.  So … how does he get a law? Where does he get off saying something that affects my life on a daily basis like that?  Is he CIA? Antique Soviet saboteurs?  What?

This idea has been bothering me so much that I decided to do a little research.  I started with Wikipedia, which, as we all know, has a fantastic reputation for accuracy in subject matters like this one.  What I learned is that Murphy may have been a plagiariser.  (For the full report, see the article here.)  Several individuals claimed authorship of the law in the 1950’s, including Murphy, but variations of the law appear in print as far back as 1877.  Of course, if you choose to do a web search, you will find as many different versions of the story of the origin of Murphy’s Law as you have the patience to sit and read.  I stopped at two.  (I’m not known as a tremendously patient person.)

All of this history begs the question, why would someone want to curse us like this?  Who was this diabolical creature?  Was this so-called “law” named by some spiteful human that wanted to make life difficult for everyone, or was it really named in jest after some poor slob who could never get his act together?  If so, I feel sorry for that poor unfortunate slob. I am plagued daily by the Forces of Entropy and Chaos, who work very hard to make sure I am a prime candidate for the effects of Murphy’s Law.  Of course, having a packrat husband, three cats, and a 3-year old only adds fuel to the fire. With the deck stacked against me like this, I guess I should count my blessings that someone already named the law after Murphy, otherwise we might all have to figure out how to spell, “Kysilka’s Law”.

As if this guy’s poor unfortunate luck isn’t bad enough, imagine what your life would be if you were actually related to Mr. Murphy.  What would your life be like?  Even if you believe in the immutability of Murphy’s Law I imagine it would be a bit like being related to Hugh Hefner.  In a way, it’s kinda neat, but do you really want to admit it?  If you didn’t believe in Murphy’s Law, then being a relative of Murphy would have to just be an unmitigated embarrassment, kind of like having Mordred as your brother.  I mean, sure, you love the guy, but he brought down Camelot.

So, this idea of “belief” in the law keeps me coming back to this question:  Just because someone said it once, why do we all feel like we have to live by it?

I have decided.  I am hereby calling for an overturn of Murphy’s Law.  I want it declared null, void, and of no further force and effect on Planet Earth.  Better yet, let’s get the whole Universe involved.  After all, we wouldn’t want to banish Murphy’s Law here on Planet Earth, only to have it return with a vengeance when we send colonists to Mars, do we?

It’s time to take a stand against tyranny!  What do you think this project will take?  Picket lines?  Protest marches? I can’t figure out who to picket and where to protest.  No one wants to take responsibility for letting the adage become a law.  Should we hire a physicist to prove Murphy’s Law wrong?  I don’t think we need to go that far.  I think we just need to look at all the good things that have happened in our space program and realize that Murphy’s Law only has the power we choose to give it.  Sure, the first moon landing was rather more exciting than the astronauts would have liked, but they made it down to the surface and back home safely.  Sure, Apollo 13 had an almost unbelievable string of bad luck, but the astronauts made it home alive.  Sure, bad things have happened, but Spirit and Opportunity roved Mars years past their projected life span.  We have to focus on the good things, people.

Murphy didn’t write a law.  Murphy was a pessimist, and we were silly enough to believe him.

Let’s write an amendment to that law, the same way the original law seems to have come about — through groundswelling grass-roots support.  Let’s amend the law to say, “Anything that can go wrong, might go wrong, so just be prepared and be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t.”

What do you say?  Are you with me?

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Who the Heck is This Murphy Guy Anyway?
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5 thoughts on “Who the Heck is This Murphy Guy Anyway?

  • 15/09/2010 at 10:39 pm

    Okay. I'm with you, sister! My college Movie History teacher told us that if we ever quoted Wikipedia in ANY paper, we'd auto fail his class. (side note there)

    So here are my thoughts. According to some brain research, the human mind needs to group information by no more than 7 units at a time. That's why they say our phone #'s have 7 digits (too many folks would not remember the #'s if they ran past 7).

    Murphy has 6 letters, you see? It was an easy one to remember. By adding the letter "s" to the end – there were exactly 7 letters to remember. Perhaps if the law had been credited to someone named "Neosaxin" we'd not have so easily remembered it.

    I really don't know what the names of the other people are who COULD have been credited with this law. I didn't look at your Wikipedia link because I'm still scared that I'll get an "F" even though my Movie History class ended over 4 years ago.

    I'm done now. Thanks for sending me to your wonderful Guest Post so I could ramble on in a SUPER LONG comment for you. Only for you, ya know. I just wanted to give you something long to read – to keep you from cleaning up kid poop.

    You're welcome.

  • 16/09/2010 at 4:01 am

    Great post! Seriously, why should we feel nothing can go right simply because this Murphy guy (or whoever) had terrible luck.

    And awesome choice of guest blogger, Derek.

  • 16/09/2010 at 9:46 am

    Nice one Karin. Now, what about that other bloke Parkinson? He has a lot to answer for as well, don't you think? :)

  • 16/09/2010 at 10:00 pm

    Hey, thanks for the comments. Once we are done taking down Murphy, we can move on to other impressive feats.

    I'd invite you to keep leaving your suggestions, and start a debate then vote, but I'm afraid that might lead to distraction from the task at hand.

    Still, if I were the "think ahead" type, I might propose we fix why the good soda always disappears faster than the bad tasting stuff, or perhaps we should deal with the guy who invented Mondays. Then again, I might be putting the cart before the horse. (And, besides, I suspect Derek wants to take on Wednesdays before we get to Mondays.) Besides, we need to take the proposal above re: Parkinson with some seriousness.

    But first — to Murphy. I mentioned on Twitter that we were taking Murphy down, and someone suggested to me that trying to overthrow Murphy might result in a worse fate. I invited that person to come live in my house for a month. I suspect they will be changing their minds very soon.

    On that note, let me say again, "Thank you," for the lovely comments, and I am quite thrilled to meet you. Of course, much thanks to Derek for opening up the blog to an outsider. It was a brave move, my friend.

  • 16/09/2010 at 10:56 pm

    Judging by all the wonderful comments for this post, I think I might just ask Karin to start posting here all the time. Thanks again Karin, and I hope you agree to entertain my readers again soon!

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