Murphy's law

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Murphy's law is a popular adage that states that "things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance," or more commonly, "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong." A number of variants on the rule have been formulated, as have several corollaries.


  • If it can happen, it will happen.
  • Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
  • If there's more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way
    • According to Robert Murphy (son of Edward A. Murphy, Jr.) his father's statement was along these lines.
  • Anything That Can Possibly Go Wrong, Does
    • Epigraph of The Butcher: The Ascent of Yerupaja (1952) by John Sack
  • Colonel Stapp's favorite takeoff on sober scientific laws — Murphy's Law, Stapp calls it — 'Everything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong'
    • Men, Rockets and Space Rats (1955) by Lloyd Mallan, possibly the earliest printed use of Murphy's name in connection with the law.
  • Murphy's Quantum Law: Anything that can, could have, or will go wrong, is going wrong, all at once.
  • Anything that can go wrong already has, you're just not aware of it yet!
    • Elson's Law
  • If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe or pregnancy, then someone will do it.
  • Smith's Law: "Murphy was an optimist."

Unattributed variants

  • Any time you put an item in a "safe place", it will never be seen again.
  • Anything dropped in the bathroom will fall in the toilet (or the sink).
  • Any tool dropped in a workshop will roll to the least accessable corner. Any object dropped on the way to the least accessable corner will land on your toe.
  • Anything you try to fix will take longer and cost you more than you thought.
  • Corollary: If there is a worst time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.
  • Everything goes wrong all at once.
  • Everything takes longer than you think.
  • For any given software, the moment you manage to master it, a new version of that software appears on the market.
  • If anything just cannot go wrong, it will anyway.
  • Just when you think things cannot get any worse, they will.
  • Problems multiply as the deadline approaches.
  • When you are waiting for someone for a long time, he/she will knock when you are in the bathroom.
  • You click on the send button, just when your eyes see the mistake on the email.
  • You are only very busy when your boss is not at the office.
  • If it can, it will.
  • If you drop your toast, it will land butter side down.
    • Murphy's 3rd Law
  • It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
  • Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently capable fool.
  • Make something idiot-proof, and they will build a better idiot.
  • The minute you sell something you will want to use it again.
  • Law of Irrational Optimism: Actually, Murphy was unduly optimistic.
  • Corollary to the Law of Irrational Optimism: The "If" clause is both redundant and superfluous.


  • A battle plan will never survive the first contact with the enemy.
  • Air strikes always overshoot the target, artillery always falls short.
  • Any piece of equipment your life depends upon was made by the lowest bidder.
  • As soon as you are served hot chow in the field, it rains.
  • Every command which can be misunderstood, will be.
  • Everything always works in your HQ, everything always fails in the Colonel's HQ.
  • Five second fuses always burn three seconds.
  • Fortify your front; you'll get your rear shot up.
  • Friendly fire isn't, foolproof plans and recoilless rifles aren't, and suppressive fires won't.
  • If the enemy is in view, so are you.
  • If the enemy is retreating as you are advancing, you are entering an ambush.
  • If you don't remember, the Claymore is facing you.
  • Just when you finished putting it together, you notice the most important part is still there on the floor.
  • Never share a foxhole with someone braver than you.
  • Once you pull the pin, Mr. Grenade is no longer your friend.
  • Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support.
  • The more durable your equipment is, the further away from civilization you'll be when it fails.
  • The shortest path is always mined or watched by snipers.
  • When reviewing the radio frequencies that you just wrote down, the most important ones are always illegible.
  • When you are low on supplies and ammo the enemy decides to attack that night.
  • When you have sufficient supplies and ammo, the enemy takes two weeks to attack.
  • Whenever you drop your equipment in a fire-fight, your ammo and grenades always fall the farthest away, and your canteen always lands at your feet.
  • Whenever you have to work with native troops, they will either be unable to speak your language or will misinterpret your questions as a threat to their lives.
  • Incoming bullets have the right of passage.


  • Any wire cut to length will be too short.
  • The most expensive circuit will be the first to blow.
  • Murphy's Law of Random Selection: The most critical part for a prototype, chosen at random from the parts bin, will easily exceed all important critical parameters.
  • 1st Corollary Murphy's Law of Random Selection: Said part is the only one which does.
  • 2nd Corollary Murphy's Law of Random Selection: The set of parts used for successful product qualification testing are the last time that said set of parts will ever be known to exist in one place at the same time.
  • Murphy's No Smoking Rule: No electronic component will work properly unless all of the smoke is kept therein.
  • Corollary to Murphy's No Smoking Rule: Smoke doesn't like to be confined in small places.

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