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Murphy's Law

Author: Ted Isidor

Editors: Misha Wichita and Shirley Chen

Artist: Susan Wu

Interstellar is one of the most “science-y” and heart-wrenching movies ever created. If you have seen it already, you are a legend, and if not, I implore you to watch it! The movie is about a future where Earth is on the brink of collapse, and scientists are in a race to save billions by moving humanity across space. With this comes visually stunning CGI scenes, a gut-wrenching plot twist bound to leave viewers stunned, and many more film elements that are best experienced by seeing the movie for yourself. Intriguingly, one of the main characters, Murphy, is named after the infamous Murphy’s Law where “Anything that can happen will happen,” including good and bad outcomes. At first, this law may seem solely philosophical, yet it has been proven time and time again to be of significance in all scientific areas.

Murphy’s Law is prevalent in fields such as physics, computer science, and engineering. When it comes to physics, the notorious law is commonly used as a way of stating the second law of thermodynamics. Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that focuses on the energy, heat, and temperature of systems. Though Murphy’s Law is only associated with the second law of thermodynamics, there are three laws in total regarding thermodynamics.

This law states how something that is originally in order will become disordered over time (UCL). For example, you may have a neat, tidy room now, but suddenly you are called to go save the planet and forget to close the door. While you’re out battling aliens, a group of curious 8-year-olds enter your house and wreak havoc, so when you return home exhausted, you find your room in complete disarray. Similarly, if you don’t clean your furniture often, then dust collects; systems tend to get more disorganized with time, and Murphy's Law expresses this perfectly.

In addition to thermodynamics, Murphy’s Law is also present in computer science, where unexpected events occur all the time, as some people who have done a little programming before may know. In programming, understanding the possibility for something wrong to happen results in the use of defensive programming, with one being Timsommer, where programs have built-in add-ons to prepare for these scenarios. Defensive programming is viewed as good practice for many software developers and programmers. Developers can specifically explore what may go wrong and how to prepare for those situations in advance when they understand that there will be a possibility of anything occurring–if it is possible.

Lastly, Murphy's Law is not only present in thermodynamics and programming; it can appear in daily life as well. One of the notable applications of this law is disaster planning and risk management. This can be seen in many daily actions, such as studying for a test (in which you prepare yourself for a situation where you may not know certain information) or wearing mittens when taking a tray out of the oven because there is a chance of being burned. Murphy’s Law emphasizes the need for a plan and the potential for the unexpected because if something can happen, it will happen.

Murphy’s Law is by no means a scientific law but rather a way of thinking that has shown its merit in both the scientific community and daily life. Murphy’s Law has shown its constant benefit in STEM fields, and with new discoveries being made daily, it will continue to be of importance.

 

Citations:

Oppenheim, Jonathan. “Murphy’s Law.” Science Blog Murphys Law Comments, 2015,

blogs.ucl.ac.uk/science/2015/02/09/Murphys-law/.

Sommer, Tim. “Famous Laws of Software Development.” Tim Sommer, Tim Sommer, 24 Oct.

2021, www.timsommer.be/famous-laws-of-software-development/#murphyslaw.

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