Saturday, June 17, 2006

Meet Edward A Murphy, Jr. He laid down The Law.

Edward A. Murphy, Jr. was no rocket scientist. He was merely an engineer on the rocket-sled experiments by the U.S. Air Force in 1949 to test human acceleration tolerances (USAF project MX981). In one of them, 16 accelerometers were attached to different parts of the subject's body. There were two ways each sensor could be glued to its mount, and somebody methodically installed all 16 the wrong way around. When that happened, thus spake Edward A. Murphy, Jr., who was no rocket scientist as pointed out earlier: "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." The ‘guinea pig’ (Major John Paul Stapp) quoted it at a news conference a few days later and then it spread like wild fire. The Law was later whittled down to: “If anything can go wrong, it will.” The sudden spurt in the volume of wrongdoings by the citizens of this 'spiritual and morally superior' country reminds me of Murphy's Laws. Although now treated as more or less of a joke, I find them very profound. Try this one for size: “If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong. Corollary: If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.” So, no matter what kind of scandal you're thinking of – bribing selectors, printing fake stamp papers, leaking CAT question papers, catching politicians with their hands in the till or whatever have you – Murphy has already codified the Laws to explain every type of corruption and criminality. He has, as the Yankees would put it, all the bases covered, including this one: “If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.” P.S.: Apart from the first Law, my personal favourite is this one: “Every solution breeds new problems.” Also, of particular application to India is this NBC's Addendum to Murphy's Law: “You never run out of things that can go wrong.” Drop in at That's where Murphy's Law was born.

NOW TRY THIS ONE ON FOR SIZE. Using a PC and the Internet can be both humbling and – if not life- then at least – attitude-threatening. You begin to believe firmly in Captain Ed Murphy's famous First Law. You give up the pursuit of certainty and perfection. Which, come to think of it, is not such a bad thing. It takes off the load of a lot many burdens your conditioning has thrust on your shoulders. You no more find it demeaning to admit an occasional defeat. You can even gradually start to accept life as random events beyond your control. Instant enlightenment at the click of a mouse? Search me.

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