Murphy can bite me

I’m not a typically negative person. I think I’m quite optimistic, with a dose of realism thrown in just to motivate me.


But then there is the principle of Murphy’s Law that I find utterly baffling. It states that if anything can go wrong, it will.


Statistically speaking, it really shouldn’t happen that way. Have you dropped your buttered toast? Why does it usually land butter side down? Murphy’s Law. But statistically speaking, there should be a 50% chance of the toast landing on either side. But several scientific studies have found that when toast is dropped from a table, it does fall butter-side down at least 62% of the time. That’s quite different than 50% of the time.


Apparently it has to do with two main factors. Firstly, the hight of the table is important; any coffee table or dinner table (anything less than 2m tall) allows enough time for falling toast to rotate about one-half of a turn, and thus lands upside down relative to its original position. Since the original position is typically butter-side up, the toast lands butter-side down. However, if dropped from a hight of 3 meters, the toast will rotate a full 360 degrees, and thus land butter-side up. The second factor that seems to matter to the toast landing position is if it fell or if it was thrown. Apparently when thrown, landing buttered side down is much closer to 50%, as one would expect. I wonder if the fury with which it’s thrown also affects the outcome.


So if cats always land on their feet, and if toast always lands buttered side down, it should be pretty easy to create antigravity by just strapping a cat to buttered toast (or vice versa). This is called the buttered cat paradox, and it’s one of my favourites.


But why is Murphy’s Law so prevalent in other areas than just dropping your buttered toast?


You can see examples in everything from your favourite sweater getting shrunk in the wash, to a how a tree falls.

Someone has to figure this thing out! Murphy’s Law seemingly exists for the sole purpose of forcing people to question an otherwise optimistic view of the world. What made me start thinking about this lovely law? Well hubs’ grad student was defending her thesis on Friday of last week, and of course this happened to her laptop 2 days before her defence. And she hadn’t yet transferred the most up-to-date version of her presentation to a thumb drive.


Of course.

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