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Scientists Define Murphy's Law 324

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the brillaint-or-pathetic dept.
Jesrad writes "A mathematician, a psychologist and an economist commissioned by British Gas have finally put into mathematical terms what we all knew: that things don't just go wrong, they do so at the most annoying moment.The formula, ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10)), indicates that to beat Murphy's Law (a.k.a. Sod's Law) you need to change one of the parameter: U for urgency, C for complexity, I for importance, S for skill, F for frequency and A for aggravation. Or in the researchers' own words: "If you haven't got the skill to do something important, leave it alone. If something is urgent or complex, find a simple way to do it. If something going wrong will particularly aggravate you, make certain you know how to do it." Don't you like it when maths back up common sense ?"
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Scientists Define Murphy's Law

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:14AM (#10486250)
    Women are evil [wisc.edu].
    • by pjt33 (739471) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @12:09PM (#10486576)
      A mathematician, a psychologist and an economist
      is clearly the lead into something like
      were on a train travelling from Glasgow to Edinburgh when they saw a sheep. The psychologist said, "Look: Scottish sheep are black!" The economist replied, "Well, we can at least say that some Scottish sheep are black." At this the mathematician spoke up: "There exists at least one sheep in Scotland at least one side of which is black."
      • Reminds me of "Stranger in a Strange Land," where there are professional witnesses trained to report only the truth of what they observe.
    • Not quite... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by teflonrabbit (534790)
      From:
      women = (evil) ^ 2
      Follows:
      women = +/- evil

      There are those of us who know and associate with women who possess negative evil.
  • Er... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 26199 (577806) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:15AM (#10486262) Homepage

    Maths doesn't work like that. Writing something down as a formula doesn't automatically tell you something new or prove something.

    It sounds like they're trying to describe how things can go wrong with a formula. That's nice, but it's just their opinion.

    • Re:Er... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grasshoppa (657393)
      Maths doesn't work like that. Writing something down as a formula doesn't automatically tell you something new or prove something.

      It sounds like they're trying to describe how things can go wrong with a formula. That's nice, but it's just their opinion.


      Christ, you must be a blast at parties.

      You know that was a joke, right? Right?
      • You know that was a joke, right? Right?

        did you read the article? after reading it, didn't seem much like a joke to me. /. just put it in the 'its funny, laugh' section.
      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @12:18PM (#10486626) Journal
        Apparantly not and many others like him don't get it either. Read the comments below and weep for what once was /. home of the nerd/geek who understood math jokes.

        It is a joke people. No need to question who did it or what school they went to or discuss the merits of trying to explain the nature of probability in a formula.

        A FUCKING JOKE. If you need it simpler it is like the old "You can have it fast, good or cheap. Pick two" but with more braces.

        Seriously read the comments. A lot just don't seem to get it at all. Those few who did. Thank god. All hope is not lost. To those who didn't go I recommend suicide. Make the world a happier place.

      • Re:Er... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mac Degger (576336)
        This, however, isn't:

        http://www.matrix-evolutions.com/

        Despite the URL, there is some serious and, as far as I can tell, correct math proving Bush wrong. Just skip to the last paragraphs to see how mathematics defines 'significant' :)
    • equals (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Doc Ruby (173196)
      No, mathematics is exactly that: a description of the phenmoena. The "laws" we're always talking about are just reasonable expectations of consistent phenomena, phrased to exclude irrelevant factors and products, while describing the relationships between the phenomena actually involved. "The map is not the territory". Math is the map. Observations are facts, and formulae are strict, testable interpretations of patterns among facts. Opinions are based on beliefs and faith - so one can have an opinion about
      • Re:equals (Score:5, Funny)

        by miskatonic alumnus (668722) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:47AM (#10486447)
        I don't see how this particular formula is testable. How does one quantify urgency or aggravation in order to test the model? Methinks they left out the most important variable, B for Bullshit, measured in metric tons. ;)
        • Re:equals (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:57AM (#10486511) Homepage Journal
          Urgency and aggravation are measured on their own relative scale, as percentages of unity (0.0->1.0). Urgency is asymptotic to the deadline, and aggravation is a combinatoric of other factors, possibly even keyed to the multidimensional gravity vector of the iotas of info. Schneidics postulates that just as space = gravity = matter = energy, so does energy = info. We're all describing schneidodynamics, detailing mechanisms that can be engineered into applications. Current mathematical tools are mostly targeting applications in grant engineering.
          • Re:equals (Score:4, Funny)

            by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Sunday October 10, 2004 @12:02PM (#10486533) Homepage
            possibly even keyed to the multidimensional gravity vector of the iotas of info.
            Impressive. Now just re-route the plasma through the deflector dish and create a static warp field, and we can make things just like they were 50 minutes ago and wrap this episode up!
            • Isn't that exactly how we figured out how to wrap this episode up? Is there an echo in here? Help! I'm trapped inside a fractal cookie factory!
          • Urgency and aggravation are measured on their own relative scale, as percentages of unity (0.0->1.0)

            I realize that it's a joke. Sadly, in some journals this kind of stuff actually passes for research. Happiness and aggravation can't be measured with a ruler.

            Current mathematical tools are mostly targeting applications in grant engineering.

            Heh heh. True enough.
        • Re:equals (Score:5, Funny)

          by aonifer (64619) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @06:37PM (#10488746)
          How does one quantify urgency

          Fraction of bladder. 0 = bladder empty, no urgency. 1 = bladder full. Hoo boy, that's urgent.
      • Re:equals (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Esben (553245)
        You mix math with other sciences, like physics. Physics is indeed like what you descripe. Math isn't. Math is about starting from some simple axioms and prove all the rest with logic, not observations.
        • Those axioms are observations. One important observation, one of two axioms underpinning all of math (and therefore science), is "consistency". The other is falsifiability, that only statements that can be proven false are scientific - the rest are metaphysical. Math such as "all triangles are composed of three interior angles totaling 180 degrees" is an observation, that is supported by theories and constructions. Physics applies math by interpreting the mathematical relationships in observed phenomena.
          • Those axioms are observations.

            I wouldn't go that far. Initially, the axioms were chosen as self-evident. But later ... The Axiom of Choice. This one is not self-evident, nor could it be called an observation. It does however make for some interesting mathematics. The Continuum Hypothesis also falls into this category. We can either accept it or reject it as an axiom, and the resulting mathematics is consistent, provided the underlying set theory is consistent. Again, CH could hardly be classified as an o
          • Re:equals (Score:5, Informative)

            by Coryoth (254751) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @12:13PM (#10486593) Homepage Journal
            Those axioms are observations. One important observation, one of two axioms underpinning all of math (and therefore science), is "consistency". The other is falsifiability, that only statements that can be proven false are scientific - the rest are metaphysical. Math such as "all triangles are composed of three interior angles totaling 180 degrees" is an observation, that is supported by theories and constructions. Physics applies math by interpreting the mathematical relationships in observed phenomena.

            I suggest you go and read some Bertrand Russell on philisophy of mathematics. Mathematics isn't based on observation at all. It's based on what axioms you choose to start with and using deductive logic from there - and you would be very surprised about how basic and not based on observation the funcamental axioms of mathematics are, presuming you bother to look at works that build up math from as small a foundation as possible. On that front, I would suggest you look at Principia Mathematica by Russell and Whitehead, which is pretty much the book on purest mathematical foundations.

            Jedidiah.
            • On that front, I would suggest you look at Principia Mathematica by Russell and Whitehead, which is pretty much the book on purest mathematical foundations.

              If you can afford to purchase a complete copy. I have to *56.

              Personally, I prefer ZFC.
            • Re:equals (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Doc Ruby (173196)
              Well, I've read (through) both the Principia, and various Russell papers. I'm even going out to the New York Public Library to look at an original copy, as I've also looked at an original copy of Einstein's "relativity" and "photoelectric effect" papers. Where do you think these axioms come from? Observation, experience. I recommend Kant's _Philosophy of Pure Reason_, and his examinations of the "a posteriori / synthetic" category of reason. Of course, mentation (even German ;) doesn't fit neatly into a box
              • Re:equals (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Coryoth (254751) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @01:48PM (#10487128) Homepage Journal
                If your going to haul Kant in then we're gettign to the level where everything we think is inescapably derived from observation. Mathematics is about as cleanly separated from that as possible. As to F=ma - that's not especially mathematical, it's physics, and yes, that's purely observational. On the other hand the fundamental theorem of calculus has considerably less to do with observation (presuming of course that we're building to it from Russell style defintions and his very limited set of axioms).

                I'm not trying to argue the pointfulness of the formula here given, I'm rather trying to stand up for the fact that mathematics, unlike physics for example, goes very much further to separate itself from "depending on observation". There are plenty concepts in mathematics (p-adic numbers, non-Hausdorff spaces, projective geometry) that run completely counter to anything observable.

                Jedidiah.
          • Re:equals (Score:5, Insightful)

            by JRaven (720) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @12:37PM (#10486720)

            Those axioms are observations.


            No, those axioms are just the assumptions that a mathematician made. They don't have anything to do with reality, or the things we observe there. Every theorem has hypotheses and a conclusion; writing every one of those hypotheses every time you make a statement gets old, so you declare some things to be true before you get started.


            One important observation, one of two axioms underpinning all of math (and therefore science), is "consistency". The other is falsifiability, that only statements that can be proven false are scientific - the rest are metaphysical.


            The notion of consistency that troubles logicians is a matter of axioms -- it is merely a matter of whether there is a statement such that it and its negation follow from the axioms. Nothing to do with reality. As for "falsifiability", that has absolutely nothing to do with mathematics. Things are proven to be absolutely true in mathematics all the time.


            Math such as "all triangles are composed of three interior angles totaling 180 degrees" is an observation.


            No.

            I feel I must repeat: No.

            That the sum of the angles in a triangle is 180 degrees is a consequence of the axioms. It is most definitely not an observation, since it isn't actually true in the real world (though it is very close to what you might measure).

            The statement about angles is a consequence of Euclidean geometry. Work in a different geometry (ie non-flat, like spherical or hyperbolic geometry) and the formula for the sum of the angles is very different.
      • No, mathematics is exactly that: a description of the phenmoena. The "laws" we're always talking about are just reasonable expectations of consistent phenomena, phrased to exclude irrelevant factors and products, while describing the relationships between the phenomena actually involved.

        And.
        Making unwarranted and usually untrue assumptions about the nature of the relationship. Kinda like all hills have straight sides.

        What is true is that mother nature sides with the hidden, and whatever and whenever caus
        • That's where that "testable" characteristic comes in. Although I wouldn't want to be working on the beta versions of the Improbability Drive they're testing this Murphy math out on.
    • Re:Er... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      Maths doesn't work like that. Writing something down as a formula doesn't automatically tell you something new or prove something.

      Score = 0
    • Hundreds! (Score:2, Funny)

      by lazybeam (162300)
      My friends love using quantifiers on values that can'be given a number:

      "I have hundreds of luck. HUNDREDS!"

      So, what are the units of urgency, complexity, importance, skill, frequency and aggravation? :)
    • Statistically it might be possible to describe this properly, if such a relationship did in fact exist. The problem here is that all the variables seem to be ordinal values and they give no instructions on how to convert them into cardinal values in terms of their function. That makes it also quite interesting how they got the constatants. On the other hand would every properly derived formula suggest that the implied relationship does not exist. Then again that seems quite boring.
    • Re:Er... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Coryoth (254751) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:51AM (#10486480) Homepage Journal
      The biggest dilemma is that this formula is just not testable. Clearly any test would be very Important and have to be carried out Frequently, and a test that covers all the situations to which Murphy's law might apply is clearly going to have to be Complex. So plugging all of that in, we see that, even if the formula is correct, all your attempts to verfiy it are doomed to failure!

      Jedidiah.
    • That's what much of science *is*. Collect data, make a theory(often a model that can describe the data, and predict future data/results), test theory. ..
      How much of that they've done, is somewhat hard to tell from the article, but _some_ it seems.
    • I've noticed a frightening trend in the "I can write a formula so it must be mathematically true" dribble floating around. It wouldn't be so bad if these people didn't seem to apparently take themselves so seriously. I'm quite happy with the odd joke, but really, this is just crap.

      Some [bbc.co.uk] examples [bbc.co.uk] here [bbc.co.uk]. Not to mention a "formula for the perfect joke" which I was unable to find. At least the news doesn't take these people too seriously.

      Jedidiah.
    • this is surely flamebait, but this is exactly the reason I was always so disgusted when studying the social sciences. The more I read, the more I would see social "scientists" using "math" in "formulas" such as this which only serve to impress upon the reader a sense of discovery or understanding by the author.
  • by barcodez (580516) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:15AM (#10486266)
    Jesrad writes "A mathematician, a psychologist and an economist commissioned by British Gas have finally put into mathematical terms what we all knew: that things don't just go wrong, they do so at the most anno.... 503 service unavailable
  • Bullcrap (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EpsCylonB (307640)
    this is psuedo science at best.

    A scientific law should be provable by repetation. You can't know somehting will go wrong every time.
    • Re:Bullcrap (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      this is psuedo science at best. A scientific law should be provable by repetation. You can't know somehting will go wrong every time.
      Ahh, but what if the "something" was your spelling, and "going wrong every time" referred to at least one error per sentence? Could we prove it then?
    • Re:Bullcrap (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I believe they are calculating statistical possibilities, not tryning to find some yes/no answer for whether something will or will not go wrong.
    • Re:Bullcrap (Score:2, Funny)

      by TheMeuge (645043)
      Now that we've written down Murphy's law, here's a bunch of other laws we can write down mathematically. I + B*E^ANS = 3SHI/TS LOG(T + A) = G/00.D/(L^A/Y) and for the final one Undescribable life bitching + mathematical formulas = Utter bullshit
    • Re:Bullcrap (Score:3, Funny)

      by pi_rules (123171) *
      You can't know something will go wrong every time.


      You sure about that?

      You want my job?

      Follow me around for a day. You'll change your tune.
    • Re:Bullcrap (Score:3, Informative)

      by ISaidItOmega (792820)
      Actually, most people have the wrong impression of what Murphy's Law actually is. It doesn't state that things go wrong at the worst moments, it states that if there exists the possibility that something can go wrong, then it eventually will. Murphy developed it when he was working on the reliability of systems as a function of their components:

      [lim(L -> infinity)][P(L < infinity|some component has a positive failure rate)] = 1 where L is the lifetime of the system

  • Ugh (Score:5, Funny)

    by mrjah (574093) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:16AM (#10486272)
    Quick, somebody start arguing about probability!
  • "from the brillaint-or-pathetic dept."

    he knows this is BS too...

    -Leav
  • by product byproduct (628318) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:20AM (#10486294)
    Better avoid a frequency of exactly 5*Pi.
  • math+uselessness=stupidity That formula means nothing to mathematics, it's just a stupid way to say something everybody already knows in English. You can't prove such a formula because it has to do with people(irritatingly inconsistant systems), not math(nicely consistant- 2+2 always = 5 ).
  • by kb9vcr (127764) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:23AM (#10486317)
    "things don't just go wrong, they do so at the most annoying moment"

    That's because, when things go wrong, it becomes the most annoying moment. My dishwaster just starting leaking all over the floor btw. Damn you murphy!
    • by Tony-A (29931) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @12:13PM (#10486595)
      First fire the arrow.
      Then paint the target.
    • No, that's too simplistic. The real point of Murphy's Law is not that things go wrong: of course they do and you're right, that point becomes an annoying moment. It's just that sometimes they go spectacularly wrong in in a synergistically coincidental manner. As in, "my dishwasher started leaking all over the floor at the very moment when I had to leave for an important job interview and couldn't find my dress shoes." The annoyance level of either situation, by itself, is tolerable but when combined ...
    • My dishwaster just starting leaking all over the floor btw.

      Check this: link [my-healthandsafety.com], good luck with that leak!

  • by pair-a-noyd (594371) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:26AM (#10486329)
    Bumper sticker for me!

    ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10))

    Yeah baby! Learn it, live it, love it!

    Actually, this formula is my life story in a nutshell.....
  • IT'S A JOKE! (Score:5, Informative)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy.tpno-co@org> on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:26AM (#10486335) Homepage
    Notice the foot? It's supposed to be a somewhat humorous little blurb about something silly.

    What a fun crowd we've got around here on Sunday...
  • Although this is slightly off-topic, I often wonder what the average energy draw of a Slashdotting would be on a particular website. I mean a webserver will only serve so many requests and the draw would be somewhat constant, but what if the site is round-robinned or some other load-balance. What about the combined power it takes to route packets to/from the server? Would be kinda a neat nerd figure to have.
  • by Malor (3658) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:30AM (#10486357) Journal
    Since, after all, they included a sin() call. As everyone knows, it's not real math unless it includes a trigonometric function. And lots of parens. Gotta have lots of those.

    Shame they didn't work in some of those cool Greek characters, though.
  • by uncadonna (85026) <mtobisNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:30AM (#10486358) Homepage Journal
    I usually cut Slashdot editorial some slack, but this is over the top. It's just a link to a tedious example of bad journalism as it stands. It should not have been posted as it stands. There's nothing to discuss.

    Experts at British Gas indeed. Why? How? No one is even telling us the quantity that is being calculated in this dubious formula.

    If you don't know, guys, kindly don't pass it on. So far it's just noise. Here's a slightly better link [scotsman.com], but still not, in my opinion, enough to bother with.

    • My bad, the news.com.au story dropped the last paragraph of the original story [sbs.com.au]:

      The equation has seven steps to forecasting a potential Murphy's Law moment, so you can work out which factors you need to change to avoid it:

      1. Rate the urgency, importance and complexity on a scale of one to nine and add the three figures together.
      2. Rate from one to nine how skilled you are at the task, then subtract this from 10.
      3. Multiply answers to 1 and 2 and divide by 20.
      4. Rate from one to nine how frequently you per
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:34AM (#10486379)
    And from today's joke at thehun.com [thehun.com] (link not work safe!!) ...

    From a strictly mathematical viewpoint it goes like this:

    What makes 100%?

    What does it mean to give MORE than 100%?

    Ever wonder about these people who say they are giving more than 100%?

    We have all been to these meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%

    How about achieving 103%? What makes up 100% in life?

    Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these question.

    If:

    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z is represented as:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.

    Then:

    H A R D W O R K

    8+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%

    K N O W L E D G E

    11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%

    But:

    A T T I T U D E

    1+20+20++9+20+21+4+5 = 100%

    And:

    B U L L S H I T

    2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%

    AND, Look how far ass kissing will take you.

    A S S K I S S I N G

    1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%

    So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that whilst hard work and knowledge will get you close, and attitude will get you there, it's the bullshit and ass kissing that will put you over the top.
  • Well, the site's down now. Right when I was about to click on the link to RTFA. Figures.
  • Finally the science of schneidics has gained some academic traction. We've been mapping the normisphere for decades, and schneidotechnology is just over the horizon. We've experimentally determined that the normisphere, a probability "black hole" surrounding the probability totalities of jinxes. We've measured the probability field warps, events that can go wrong, in murphys, and annihilation of incoming events, things that do go wrong, in normys. This new formalization of schneidics will help us in our pur
  • A for

    aggravation

    Yes, I know in common usage, "aggravation," has meant an "an exasperated feeling of annoyance" for a long time. However, that is because since at least the time of Dickens, the word has been mistaken for "irritation." Dickens used "aggrivation," for "irritation" to make his Cockney charecters sound funny, and now it makes an already spurious equtaion comical. Of course, that may have been the intent.

    However, perhaps we are all a little quick to judge. After all, all we have is a new

  • by nels_tomlinson (106413) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:46AM (#10486444) Homepage
    ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10))

    So, when we're trying to estimate the parameters, we take logs and get:

    log(U+C+I) + log(10-S) - log20 + logA - log(1-sin(F/10))

    That means that we can estimate the effects of skill, aggravation and frequency separately, but the effects of urgency, complexity and importance can't be separated from one another.

    I'm pretty sure there's some deep, philosophical meaning to that.

  • Scientific Humor (Score:3, Interesting)

    by karlandtanya (601084) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:47AM (#10486451)
    ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10))


    is what? The number of times per week something will go wrong? A probability function describing the frustration field in the vicinity of a piece of hardware? The length of the scientist's nose?


    Where's the equals sign? Or comparison operator? Where's the other half of the equation?


    It's cute that somebody's multiplied a bunch of parameters. But they haven't said (mathematically) what that means.


    Murphy's law is a humorous observation at man's frustration with the universe. A mathematical descrption of Murphy's law would be scientific humor.


    What was reported by NEWS.com.au (and repeated by /.) is not scientific humor. It is, instead, meaningless crap.

  • But, what happens when their formulation of the law goes wrong? Oops.
  • Murphy's Law that "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible time."

    Is actually an inverse corollary of the Schroedinger's cat equations:

    "Anything that can go wrong, already has, but you won't observe it until the most critical time."

  • Does this mean they can defy it?
  • It's the Law of Go Figure that rules my life.

    Like when you're looking for somebody inside a building. You park next to their car and go inside to find them. If you don't leave a note on their car, they will come out the other door, get into their car without noticing yours, and leave. If you do leave a note, you'll meet up with them inside. Go figure. It's similar, but it's not the same.

    I always wonder about those types of "laws"--nobody compares the number of times things go wrong at the worst possible m
  • by Baldrson (78598) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @11:56AM (#10486509) Homepage Journal
    Project psychologist Dr David Lewis said... "So, if you haven't got the skill to do something important, leave it alone. If something is urgent or complex, find a simple way to do it. If something going wrong will particularly aggravate you, make certain you know how to do it."

    When asked why so many of his psychotherapy patients commit suicide, Dr. Lewis went on to say, "You're implying something went wrong. They would have become serial murderers or child rapists if I handn't helped them. Are you saying I should be aggravated over the outcome of having saved lives while protecting little children from molestation? If I didn't have the skills I have, you might not be standing here asking such questions, you Wanker."

  • Close (Score:5, Informative)

    by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Sunday October 10, 2004 @12:01PM (#10486530) Homepage
    If that actually were Murphy's Law [wikipedia.org], then that would be an impressive story.

    It's not, it's not the same thing as Sod's Law, and the law you're thinking of is Finagle's.

    Ironicly, having it called Murphy's Law by a reporter from the Courier-Mail is an example of Murphy's Law.

  • This isn't Murphy's Law [catb.org], it's Finagle's Law.
  • Sounds like gibberish to me.

    Einstein did a much better job applying pseudo-math to real life :

    "If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut."
  • by starling (26204) <strayling20@gmail.com> on Sunday October 10, 2004 @12:06PM (#10486557)
    Murphy's Law: If it can go wrong it will

    Sod's Law: It will go wrong at the worst posible time.
  • "A mathematician, a psychologist and an economist walked into a bar|commissioned by British Gas ...

    With an intro like that, it's got to be a joke. I suppose that if you search here [mcc.ac.uk], you'll find that missing punchline. Maybe this is it?

    Q: What's the difference between mathematics and economics
    A: Mathematics is incomprehensible; economics just doesn't make any sense.

  • I suppose it's only a matter of time before someone formulates "stating the bleeding obvious"...

    ""A mathematician, a psychologist and an economist commissioned by British Gas have finally put into mathematical terms... Murphy's Law (a.k.a. Sod's Law)."
    That'll explain why British Gas "had to" increase the price of energy [bbc.co.uk]: to pay for such folly as this.

  • S = 11 (Score:2, Funny)

    by Begemot (38841)
    It's the outstanding skills that makes your chances to get laid negative
  • by freshmkr (132808) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @12:52PM (#10486830) Homepage
    Don't you like it when maths back up common sense ?

    The equation in the post is a model---an invention for the purposes of prediction and description. It's effectively a mathematical restatement of common sense insights and (hopefully) statistical tendencies derived from psychological and economic studies. So to say that this work backs up common sense is missing the point to some extent: most of the meat was there first as common sense, and the math just expresses it more precisely and more in keeping with observed data.

    Note that F=ma and the rest of Newton's laws also form a model in the same way that this equation does. What made them so revolutionary was that the ideas behind the models were very powerful, making the models themselves extremely accurate. We'll have to wait and see whether this Murphy's Law model is backed by similarly potent insights.

    --Tom
  • by StateOfTheUnion (762194) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @01:42PM (#10487101) Homepage
    It amazes me that many here think that the formula is merely a joke . . . perhaps this is a humorous formula, but similar formulas are used in the manufacturing industry to prioritize problems and issues in manufacturing. Problems are related to one another by ranking their relative severity, detectability and frequency . . . sometime also cost factors or normal maintenance factors are included.

    These factors are often multiplied together to result in a number that is used to prioritize the limited funds available to process improvement or maintenance.

    These ideas are not new . . . they were developed by Japanese manufacturers and the US auto industry decades ago . . They are called Failure Modes and Effects Analyses. They are often used in conjunction with statisical process control efforts to reduce variability and downtime.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2004 @02:34PM (#10487393)
    Man will I get my coffee in this morning?

    ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10))

    Urgency = yeah I'd give that a 50, I mean it's pretty urgent.

    Complexity = it's pretty simple so a 1.

    Importance = it's not important for my boss, but really important for me, so a 400.

    Skill = well a child or drunk person might have problems, so it sounds like a 4.

    Frequency = well, I'll probably want 2 cups today.

    Aggravation = yeah I'll get really aggrivated without my coffee, so 100 is about right.

    Let's see plug all those in:
    ((50 + 1 + 400) x (10 - 4)) / 20 x 100 X 1/(1 - sin(2/10))
    bust out calc.exe and punch in the numbers right:

    1.3482771486352022902422017615702

    Alright now I'm rocking. There is 1.3482771486352022902422017615702 that I'll get my 2 cups of coffee today. Glad that's straightened out.

    PS. I think magic 8 ball is faster.
  • by sqwrell (820572) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @02:52PM (#10487489)
    INTERESTING ADDENDUM FROM RBL (first featured in RBL's KISS Guide to
    Windows, 1999): http://rblevin.net

    It's ironic. One of the world's favorite axioms on the inevitability of
    failure is itself an example of such inevitability. It's Murphy's Law, most
    often stated as "anything that can go wrong, will." The irony: That's not
    Murphy's Law at all. It's "Finagle's Law of Dynamic Negatives," devised by
    the famous science fiction author Larry Niven. The real Murphy's Law was
    coined sometime around 1949 by USAF engineer Edward A. Murphy Jr.

    Murphy was part of a team of USAF engineers working on a project that tested
    the effects of extreme G-forces on the human body. One such test involved
    mounting 16 sensors to 16 different parts of the test subject's body. Each
    sensor could be connected in one of two ways: Correctly or incorrectly. On
    the first run, a technician installed all 16 sensors backwards, after which
    Murphy issued his now-famous maxim: "If there are two or more ways to do
    something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone
    will do it." Someone did, and now Finagle's Law is almost always misrepresented as Murphy's.
  • by knitterb (103829) on Sunday October 10, 2004 @03:01PM (#10487539) Homepage
    I have a short fuse, so:

    ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10))

    should be rewritten as:

    ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A^2 x 1/(1-sin(F/10))

    !!
  • by da3dAlus (20553) <dustin.grauNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday October 10, 2004 @03:22PM (#10487641) Homepage Journal
    For those that didn't RTFM, the value for each variable should be on a scale of 1-9, with 9 being very high. A (aggrivation) should be 0.7 as set after the study. I put together something in PHP [dyndns.org] just to do the work for me. The biggest variable seems to be skill--with all others set to very high (9) it certainly "proves" that an idiot can totally screw stuff up.

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