Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Two thoughts on Murphy's Law

1. "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong" is trivially true (for specific meanings of can). In a deterministic universe, what happens is strictly a consequence of the initial conditions, given the initial conditions the result is set in stone and unchangeable. For a specific meaning of can, anything that is allowed by those initials conditions can happen and anything that isn't, cannot. Since the result is set, anything that could happen given the initial conditions has to be part of that result, otherwise it wouldn't be part of what can happen. What can happen and what does happen are actually the exact same thing, looked at from different points in time. As a corollary, the inverse of Murphy's Law stating that whatever can go right will go right is also trivially true under the same specifications.

Of course, someone might say "But I don't believe in determinism!". I have two answers to that, the first is "You're wrong by virtue of the fact that you disagree with me" and the second is "Pretend I appended  'if you are a determinist' to that first sentence." Choose the one you like the most.

2.If you look at it the wrong way, Murphy's law is actually very optimistic. Proof:
A. Often people believe bad things will happen and they don't.

B. Of two people, one who believes something bad can happen and one who does not, the latter is the most optimistic.

C. Murphy's law states that if something bad can happen, it does happen.

D. p -> q is equivalent to ¬q -> ¬p, thus from C we can see that according to a Murphyist if something bad does not happen, then it could not happen.

E. From A and D we can show that often people believe that bad things would happen in cases where a Murphyist would believe they couldn't happen.

F. Thus from E and B we can show that often, of two people, the Murphyist is the most optimistic of the two.


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