- This list represents a compilation from many
sources, including slips of unidentified paper and long-since-deleted
electronic mail. Some sources, however, provided significant enough
contributions that they are remembered. Foremost among these are (1) a list
accumulated by veteran collector Conrad Schneiker (formerly of U of Arizona,
now believed to be at CDC in Sunnyvale) and expanded by Ed Logg, Gregg
Townshend, and John Ehrman, and (2) Paul Dickson's excellent book, "The
Official Rules", which I heartily recommend. Not only does Dickson include
many items that, for one reason or another, are omitted from this list, but he
also includes attributions wherever possible. (Some of his attributions are
known to be incorrect, but it's still amusing reading.) Another book: "The
Complete Murphy's Laws" by Arthur Bloch.
- Nothing is as easy as it looks.
takes longer than you think.
Anything that can go wrong will go
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.
If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will
If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which a
procedure can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared
for, will promptly develop.
Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad
If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously
Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.
nature is a bitch.
It is impossible to make anything foolproof because
fools are so ingenious.
Whenever you set out to do something, something
else must be done first.
Every solution breeds new
Murphy's Law of Research
research will tend to support your theory.
Murphy's Law of
The legibility of a copy is inversely proportional to
Murphy's Law of the Open
When there is a very long road upon which there is a
one-way bridge placed at random, and there are only two cars on that road, it
follows that: (1) the two cars are going in opposite directions, and (2) they
will always meet at the bridge.
Murphy's Law of
Thermodynamics Things get worse under pressure.
Smile . . . tomorrow will be
Quantization Revision of Murphy's
Everything goes wrong all at
Matter will be damaged
in direct proportion to its value
Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to
It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so
Law of the Perversity of Nature (Mrs. Murphy's
You cannot successfully determine beforehand
which side of the bread to butter.
The chance of the bread falling with the buttered
side down is directly proportional to the cost of
Commentaries on Murphy's Laws
If we lose much by having things
go wrong, take all possible care.
If we have nothing to lose by change,
If we have everything to gain by change, relax.
If it doesn't
matter, it does not matter.
Murphy was an optimist.
Addendum to Murphy's Law
You never run out of things that can
Murphy's Military Laws
Never share a foxhole
with anyone braver than you are.
No battle plan ever survives contact with
Friendly fire ain't.
The most dangerous thing in the combat
zone is an officer with a map.
The problem with taking the easy way out is
that the enemy has already mined it.
The buddy system is essential to your
survival; it gives the enemy somebody else to shoot at.
The further you are
in advance of your own positions, the more likely your artillery will shoot
Incoming fire has the right of way.If your advance is going well,
you are walking into an ambush.
The quartermaster has only two sizes, too
large and too small.
If you really need an officer in a hurry, take a
The only time suppressive fire works is when it is used on abandoned
The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is
incoming friendly fire.
There is nothing more satisfying that having
someone take a shot at you, and miss.
Don't be conspicuous. In the combat
zone, it draws fire. Out of the combat zone, it draws
your sergeant can see you, so can the enemy.
You can never tell which way the train went by looking at
Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion
Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn
fool discovers something which
either abolishes the system or expands it
Technology is dominated by those who manage what they
do not understand.
If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote
programs, then the first woodpecker that
came along would destroy
The opulence of the front office decor varies inversely with
the fundamental solvency of the firm.
The attention span of a computer is
only as long as it electrical cord.
An expert is one who knows more and
more about less and less until he knows absolutely
Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he'll
believe you. Tell him a bench has
wet paint on it and he'll have to touch
to be sure.
All great discoveries are made by mistake.
Always draw your
curves, then plot your reading.
Nothing ever gets built on schedule or
All's well that ends.
A meeting is an event at which the
minutes are kept and the hours are lost.
The first myth of management is
that it exists.
A failure will not appear till a unit has passed final
New systems generate new problems.
To err is human, but to
really foul things up requires a computer.
We don't know one millionth of
one percent about anything.
Any given program, when running, is
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from
A computer makes as many mistakes in two seconds as 20 men working
20 years make.
Nothing motivates a man more than to see his boss putting in
an honest day's work.
Some people manage by the book, even though they
don't know who wrote the book or even
The primary function
of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and
impossible for the serviceman.
To spot the expert, pick the one who
predicts the job will take the longest and cost the most.
After all is said
and done, a hell of a lot more is said than done.
Any circuit design must
contain at least one part which is obsolete, two parts which are
unobtainable and three parts which are still under development.
complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple
If mathematically you end up with the incorrect
answer, try multiplying by the page number.
Computers are unreliable, but
humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability
Give all orders verbally. Never write anything down that
might go into a "Pearl Harbor File."
Under the most rigorously controlled
conditions of pressure, temperature, volume, humidity, and other variables the
organism will do as it damn well pleases.
If you can't understand it, it is
The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater
the odds that the competition already has the order.
In designing any type
of construction, no overall dimension can be totalled correctly after 4:30
p.m. on Friday. The correct total will become self-evident at 8:15 a.m. on
Fill what's empty. Empty what's full. And scratch where it
All things are possible except skiing through a revolving
The only perfect science is hind-sight.
Work smarder and not
harder and be careful of yor speling.
If it's not in the computer, it
If an experiment works, something has gone wrong.
all else fails, read the instructions.
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.
Everything that goes up must come down.
Any instrument when
dropped will roll into the least accessible corner.
Any simple theory will
be worded in the most complicated way.
Build a system that even a fool can
use and only a fool will want to use it.
The degree of technical competence
is inversely proportional to the level of management.
All the good ones are taken.
If the person isn't
taken, there's a reason. (corr. to 1)
The nicer someone is, the farther
away (s)he is from you.
Brains x Beauty x Availability = Constant.
amount of love someone feels for you is inversely proportional to how much you
Money can't buy love, but it sure gets you a great bargaining
The best things in the world are free --- and worth every penny
Every kind action has a not-so-kind reaction.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably
Availability is a function of time. The minute you get interested is
the minute they find someone
Murphy's Laws of Sex
beautiful the woman is who loves you, the easier it is to leave her with no
Nothing improves with age.
No matter how many times
you've had it, if it's offered take it, because it'll never be quite the
Sex has no calories.
Sex takes up the least amount of
time and causes the most amount of trouble.
There is no remedy for sex but
Sex appeal is 50% what you've got and 50% what people think
No sex with anyone in the same office.
Sex is like snow; you
never know how many inches you are going to get or how long it is going to
A man in the house is worth two in the street.
If you get them by
the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.
Virginity can be
When a man's wife learns to understand him, she usually stops
listening to him.
Never sleep with anyone crazier than yourself.
qualities that most attract a woman to a man are usually the same ones she
can't stand years later.
Sex is dirty only if it's done right.
always the wrong time of month.
The best way to hold a man is in your
When the lights are out, all women are beautiful.
hereditary. If your parents never had it, chances are you won't either.
your wild oats on Saturday night -- Then on Sunday pray for crop
The younger the better.
The game of love is never called off on
account of darkness.
It was not the apple on the tree but the pair on the
ground that caused the trouble in the garden.
- Sex discriminates against the shy and the
ugly.Before you find your handsome prince, you've got to kiss a lot of
There may be some things better than sex, and some things worse than
sex. But there is nothing exactly like it.
Love your neighbor, but don't
Love is a hole in the heart.
If the effort that went in
research on the female bosom had gone into our space program, we would now be
running hot-dog stands on the moon.
Love is a matter of chemistry, sex is a
matter of physics.
Do it only with the best.
Sex is a three-letter word
which needs some old-fashioned four-letter words to convey its full
One good turn gets most of the blankets.
You cannot produce a
baby in one month by impregnating nine women.
Love is the triumph of
imagination over intelligence.
It is better to have loved and lost than
never to have loved at all.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.....unless in
Never lie down with a woman who's got more troubles than
Abstain from wine, women, and song; mostly song.
Never argue with a
women when she's tired -- or rested.
A woman never forgets the men she
could have had; a man, the women he couldn't.
What matters is not the
length of the wand, but the magic in the stick.
It is better to be looked
over than overlooked.
Never say no.
A man can be happy with any woman as
long as he doesn't love her.
Folks playing leapfrog must complete all
Beauty is skin deep; ugly goes right to the bone.
between a fire hydrant and a dog.
A man is only a man, but a good bicycle
is a ride.
Love comes in spurts.
The world does not revolve on an
Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation; the other eight are
Smile, it makes people wonder what you are thinking.
do it if you can't keep it up.
There is no difference between a wise man
and a fool when they fall in love.
Never go to bed mad, stay up and
Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.
won't hurt, I promise."
- If you have to ask, you're not entitled to
- If you don't like the answer, you shouldn't
have asked the question.
- When eating an elephant, take one bite at a
- Rule of
- When working toward the solution of a
problem, it always helps if you know the answer.
Provided, of course, that you know there is a problem.
- Acheson's Rule of the
- A memorandum is written not to inform the
reader but to protect the writer.
- Power tends to corrupt; absolute power
- Ade's Law:
- Anybody can win -- unless there happens to
be a second entry.
- When the plane you are on is late, the plane
you want to transfer to is on time.
- Alan's Law of
- The theory is supported as long as the funds
- Social innovations tend to the level of
minimum tolerable well being.
- Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never
play cards with a man named Doc. And never lie down with a woman who's got
more troubles than you.
- Allen's Law of
- It is better for civilization to be going
down the drain than to be coming up it.
- Agnes Allen's
- Almost anything is easier to get into than
- When all else fails, follow
- The lion and the calf shall lie down
together, but the calf won't get much sleep.
- Fred Allen's
- I'd rather have a free bottle in front of me
than a prefrontal lobotomy.
- Justice always prevails . . . three times
out of seven.
- The objective of all dedicated product
support employees should be to thoroughly analyze all situations, anticipate
all problems prior to their occurrence, have answers for these problems, and
move swiftly to solve these problems when called upon. However, when you are
up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your
initial objective was to drain the swamp.
- The best simple-minded test of expertise in
a particular area is the ability to win money in a series of bets on future
occurrences in that area.
- Any system or program, however complicated,
if looked at in exactly the right way, will become even more
- Andrews's Canoeing
- No matter which direction you start it's
always against the wind coming back.
- Law of
- When working on a project, if you put away a
tool that you're certain you're finished with, you will need it
- Anthony's Law of
- Don't force it, get a larger hammer.
- Anthony's Law of the
- Any tool, when dropped, will roll into the
least accessible corner of the workshop.
- Corollary: On the way to the corner, any
dropped tool will first always strike your toes.
- Laws of Applied
- The one piece that the plant forgot to ship
is the one that supports 75% of the balance of the shipment.
- Corollary: Not
only did the plant forget to ship it, 50% of the time they haven't even made
- Truck deliveries that normally take one day
will take five when you are waiting for the truck.
- After adding two weeks to the schedule for
unexpected delays, add two more for the unexpected, unexpected delays.
- In any structure, pick out the one piece
that should not be mismarked and expect the plant to cross you up.
- In any group of pieces with the same
erection mark on it, one should not have that mark on it.
- It will not be discovered until you try to
put it where the mark says it's supposed to go.
- Never argue with the fabricating plant about
an error. The inspection prints are all checked off, even to the holes that
- Approval Seeker's
- Those whose approval you seek the most give
you the least.
- The Aquinas
- What the gods get away with, the cows
- Army Axiom:
- Any order that can be misunderstood has been
- Army Law:
- If it moves, salute it; if it doesn't move,
pick it up; if you can't pick it up, paint it.
- Ashley-Perry Statistical
- Numbers are tools, not rules.
- Numbers are symbols for things; the number
and the thing are not the same.
- Skill in manipulating numbers is a talent,
not evidence of divine guidance.
- Like other occult techniques of divination,
the statistical method has a private jargon deliberately contrived to obscure
its methods from nonpractitioners.
- The product of an arithmetical computation
is the answer to an equation; it is not the solution to a problem.
- Arithmetical proofs of theorems that do not
have arithmetical bases prove nothing.
- It's always the wrong time of the
- Fourteenth Corollary of Atwood's
General Law of Dynamic Negatives:
- No books are lost by loaning except those
you particularly wanted to keep.
- Avery's Rule of
- Trouble strikes in series of threes, but
when working around the house the next job after a series of three is not the
fourth job -- it's the start of a brand new series of three.
- If it can be borrowed and it can be broken,
you will borrow it and you will break it.
- What's good politics is bad economics;
what's bad politics is good economics; what's good economics is bad politics;
what's bad economics is good politics.
- Bagdikian's Law of Editor's
- The splendor of an editor's speech and the
splendor of his newspaper are inversely related to the distance between the
city in which he makes his speech and the city in which he publishes his
- When you are over the hill, you pick up
- Misery no longer loves company. Nowadays it
insists on it.
- Some of it plus the rest of it is all of
- Barber's Laws of
- The integral of the gravitational potential
taken around any loop trail you chose to hike always comes out
- Any stone in your boot always migrates
against the pressure gradient to exactly the point of most pressure.
- The weight of your pack increases in direct
proportion to the amount of food you consume from it. If you run out of food,
the pack weight goes on increasing anyway.
- The number of stones in your boot is
directly proportional to the number of hours you have been on the
- The difficulty of finding any given trail
marker is directly proportional to the importance of the consequences of
failing to find it.
- The size of each of the stones in your boot
is directly proportional to the number of hours you have been on the
- The remaining distance to your chosen
campsite remains constant as twilight approaches.
- The net weight of your boots is proportional
to the cube of the number of hours you have been on the trail.
- When you arrive at your chosen campsite, it
- If you take your boots off, you'll never get
them back on again.
- The local density of mosquitos is inversely
proportional to your remaining repellent.
- Barrett's Laws of
- You can get ANYWHERE in ten minutes if you
go fast enough.
- Speed bumps are of negligible effect when
the vehicle exceeds triple the desired restraining speed.
- The vehicle in front of you is traveling
slower than you are.
- This lane ends in 500 feet.
- Barr's Comment on Domestic
- On a beautiful day like this it's hard to
believe anyone can be unhappy -- but we'll work on it.
- There are two types of people: those who
divide people into two types, and those who don't.
- Bartz's Law of Hokey
- The more ridiculous a belief system, the
higher the probability of its success.
- Baruch's Rule for Determining
- Old age is always fifteen years older than I
- Barzun's Laws of
- The simple but difficult arts of paying
attention, copying accurately, following an argument, detecting an ambiguity
or a false inference, testing guesses by summoning up contrary instances,
organizing one's time and one's thought for study -- all these arts -- cannot
be taught in the air but only through the difficulties of a defined subject.
They cannot be taught in one course or one year, but must be acquired
gradually in dozens of connections.
- The analogy to athletics must be pressed
until all recognize that in the exercise of Intellect those who lack the
muscles, coordination, and will power can claim no place at the training
table, let alone on the playing field.
- Forthoffer's Cynical Summary of
- That which has not yet been taught directly
can never be taught directly.
- If at first you don't succeed, you will
- Baxter's First
- Government intervention in the free market
always leads to a lower national standard of living.
- Baxter's Second
- The adoption of fractional gold reserves in
a currency system always leads to depreciation, devaluation, demonetization
and, ultimately, to complete destruction of that currency.
- Baxter's Third
- In a free market good money always drives
bad money out of circulation.
- Beardsley's Warning to
- Beware of and eschew pompous
- When you're up to your nose, keep your mouth
- It is much harder to find a job than to keep
- The probability of a young man meeting a
desirable and receptive young female increases by pyramidal progression when
he is already in the company of (1) a date, (2) his wife, and (3) a better
looking and richer male friend.
- The ratio of time involved in work to time
available for work is usually about 0.6.
- There are two types of people: those who
divide people into two types, and those who don't.
- Anyone can do any amount of work, provided
it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.
- The world is more complicated than most of
our theories make it out to be.
- Ignorance is no excuse.
- Never decide to buy something while
listening to the salesman.
- Information which is true meets a great many
different tests very well.
- Most problems have either many answers or no
answer. Only a few problems have a single answer.
- An answer may be wrong, right, both, or
neither. Most answers are partly right and partly wrong.
- A chain of reasoning is no stronger than its
- A statement may be true independently of
- Most general statements are false, including
- An exception TESTS a rule; it NEVER PROVES
- The moment you have worked out an answer,
start checking it -- it probably isn't right.
- If there is an opportunity to make a
mistake, sooner or later the mistake will be made.
- Being sure mistakes will occur is a good
frame of mind for catching them.
- Check the answer you have worked out once
more -- before you tell it to anybody.
- Estimating a figure may be enough to catch
- Figures calculated in a rush are very hot;
they should be allowed to cool off a little before being used; thus we will
have a reasonable time to think about the figures and catch mistakes.
- A great many problems do not have accurate
answers, but do have approximate answers, from which sensible decisions can be
- You can observe a lot just by
- Berson's Corollary of Inverse
- The farther away from the entrance that you
have to park, the closer the space vacated by the car that pulls away as you
walk up to the door.
- All bicycles weigh 50 pounds:
- A 30-pound bicycle needs a 20-pound lock and
- A 40-pound bicycle needs a 10-pound lock and
- A 50-pound bicycle needs no lock or
- First Law of
- No matter which way you ride it's uphill and
against the wind.
- The Billings
- The conclusions of most good operations
research studies are obvious.
- Live within your income, even if you have to
borrow to do so.
- Established technology tends to persist in
spite of new technology.
- Blanchard's Newspaper Obituary
- If you want your name spelled wrong,
- Bok's Law:
- If you think education is expensive -- try
- If you're feeling good, don't worry. You'll
get over it.
- Bolton's Law of Ascending
- Under current practices, both expenditures
and revenues rise to meet each other, no matter which one may be in
- Bombeck's Rule of
- Never go to a doctor whose office plants
- The conventional wisdom is that power is an
aphrodisiac. In truth, it's exhausting.
- Boob's Law:
- You always find something the last place you
- An ounce of application is worth a ton of
- A bird in the hand is dead.
- Boren's Laws of the
- When in doubt, mumble.
- When in trouble, delegate.
- When in charge, ponder.
- You can't guard against the
- If everything seems to be coming your way,
you're probably in the wrong lane.
- Boston's Irreversible Law of
- In any household, junk accumulates to fill
the space available for its storage.
- If the converse of a statement is absurd,
the original statement is an insult to the intelligence and should never have
- The success of any venture will be helped by
prayer, even in the wrong denomination.
- When things are going well, someone will
inevitably experiment detrimentally.
- The deficiency will never show itself during
the dry runs.
- Information travels more surely to those
with a lesser need to know.
- An original idea can never emerge from
committee in the original.
- When the product is destined to fail, the
delivery system will perform perfectly.
- The crucial memorandum will be snared in the
out-basket by the paper clip of the overlying correspondence and go to
- Success can be insured only by devising a
defense against failure of the contingency plan.
- Performance is directly affected by the
perversity of inanimate objects.
- If not controlled, work will flow to the
competent man until he submerges.
- The lagging activity in a project will
invariably be found in the area where the highest overtime rates lie
- Talent in staff work or sales will
recurringly be interpreted as managerial ability.
- The "think positive" leader tends to listen
to his subordinates' premonitions only during the postmortems.
- Clearly stated instructions will
consistently produce multiple interpretations.
- On successive charts of the same
organization the number of boxes will never decrease.
- Branch's First Law of
- The spirit of public service will rise, and
the bureaucracy will multiply itself much faster, in time of grave national
- First Law of
- It's always the partner's fault.
- Brien's First
- At some time in the life cycle of virtually
every organization, its ability to succeed in spite of itself runs out.
- Anybody that wants the presidency so much
that he'll spend two years organizing and campaigning for it is not to be
trusted with the office.
- Organizations can grow faster than their
brains can manage them in relation to their environment and to their own
physiology; when this occurs, they are an endangered species.
- Adding manpower to a late software project
makes it later.
- Whenever a system becomes completely
defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system
or expands it beyond recognition.
- Brownian Motion Rule of
- It is impossible to distinguish, from a
distance, whether the bureaucrats associated with your project are simply
sitting on their hands, or frantically trying to cover their asses.
- Heisenberg's Addendum to Brownian
Bureaucracy: If you observe a bureaucrat closely enough to make the
distinction above, he will react to your observation by covering his
- (Jerry) Brown's
- Too often I find that the volume of paper
expands to fill the available briefcases.
- (Sam) Brown's
- Never offend people with style when you can
offend them with substance.
- (Tony) Brown's Law of Business
- Our customer's paperwork is profit. Our own
paperwork is loss.
- Bruce-Briggs's Law of
- At any level of traffic, any delay is
- As the economy gets better, everything else
- Bucy's Law:
- Nothing is ever accomplished by a reasonable
- Overdoing things is harmful in all cases,
even when it comes to efficiency.
- Bureaucratic Cop-Out
- You should have seen it when *I* got
- If the assumptions are wrong, the
conclusions aren't likely to be very good.
- Bustlin' Billy's Bogus
- The organization of any program reflects the
organization of the people who develop it.
- There is no such thing as a "dirty
capitalist", only a capitalist.
- Anything is possible, but nothing is
- Capitalism can exist in one of only two
states -- welfare or warfare.
- I'd rather go whoring than warring.
- History proves nothing.
- There is nothing so unbecoming on the beach
as a wet kilt.
- A little humility is arrogance.
- A lot of what appears to be progress is just
so much technological rococo.
- Butler's Law of
- All progress is based on a universal innate
desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.
- Bye's First Law of Model
- Anytime you wish to demonstrate something,
the number of faults is proportional to the number of viewers.
- Bye's Second Law of Model
- The desire for modeling a prototype is
inversely proportional to the decline of the prototype.
- Cahn's Axiom (Allen's
- When all else fails, read the
- Calkin's Law of Menu
- The number of adjectives and verbs that are
added to the description of a menu item is in inverse proportion to the
quality of the resulting dish.
- John Cameron's
- No matter how many times you've had it, if
it's offered, take it, because it'll never be quite the same again.
- Camp's Law:
- A coup that is known in advance is a coup
that does not take place.
- Nature abhors a vacuous experimenter.
- Canada Bill Jones's
- It's morally wrong to allow suckers to keep
- Canada Bill Jones's
- A Smith and Wesson beats four aces.
- Cannon's Cogent
- The leak in the roof is never in the same
location as the drip.
- If you tell the boss you were late for work
because you had a flat tire, the next morning you will have a flat
- It's better to be rich and healthy than poor
- Any body suspended in space will remain in
space until made aware of its situation. Daffy Duck steps off a cliff,
expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly,
until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32
feet per second per second takes over.
- Any body in motion will tend to remain in
motion until solid matter intervenes suddenly. Whether shot from a cannon or
in hot pursuit on foot, cartoon characters are so absolute in their momentum
that only a telephone pole or an outsize boulder retards their forward motion
absolutely. Sir Isaac Newton called this sudden termination of motion the
- Any body passing through solid matter will
leave a perforation conforming to its perimeter. Also called the silhouette of
passage, this phenomenon is the speciality of victims of directed-pressure
explosions and of reckless cowards who are so eager to escape that they exit
directly through the wall of a house, leaving a cookie-cutout- perfect hole.
The threat of skunks or matrimony often catalyzes this reaction.
- The time required for an object to fall
twenty stories is greater than or equal to the time it takes for whoever
knocked it off the ledge to spiral down twenty flights to attempt to capture
it unbroken. Such an object is inevitably priceless, the attempt to capture it
- All principles of gravity are negated by
fear. Psychic forces are sufficient in most bodies for a shock to propel them
directly away from the earth's surface. A spooky noise or an adversary's
signature sound will induce motion upward, usually to the cradle of a
chandelier, a treetop, or the crest of a flagpole. The feet of a character who
is running or the wheels of a speeding auto need never touch the ground,
especially when in flight.
- As speed increases, objects can be in
several places at once. This is particularly true of tooth-and-claw fights, in
which a character's head may be glimpsed emerging from the cloud of
altercation at several places simultaneously. This effect is common as well
among bodies that are spinning or being throttled. A 'wacky' character has the
option of self- replication only at manic high speeds and may ricochet off
walls to achieve the velocity required.
- Certain bodies can pass through solid walls
painted to resemble tunnel entrances; others cannot. This trompe l'oeil
inconsistency has baffled generation, but at least it is known that whoever
paints an entrance on a wall's surface to trick an opponent will be unable to
pursue him into this theoretical space. The painter is flattened against the
wall when he attempts to follow into the painting. This is ultimately a
problem of art, not of science.
- Any violent rearrangement of feline matter
is impermanent. Cartoon cats possess even more deaths than the traditional
nine lives might comfortably afford. They can be decimated, spliced, splayed,
accordion-pleated, spindled, or disassembled, but they cannot be destroyed.
After a few moments of blinking self pity, they reinflate, elongate, snap
back, or solidify. Corollary: A cat will assume the shape of its
- For every vengeance there is an equal and
opposite revengeance. This is the one law of animated cartoon motion that also
applies to the physical world at large. For that reason, we need the relief of
watching it happen to a duck instead.
- Everything falls faster than an anvil.
Examples too numerous to mention from the Roadrunner cartoons.
- All kookies are not in a jar.
- Law of Character and
- People don't change; they only become more
- Checkbook Balancer's
- In matters of dispute, the bank's balance is
always smaller than yours.
- Nothing ever gets built on schedule or
- Chili Cook's
- If your next pot of chili tastes better, it
probably is because of something left out, rather than added.
- Chisholm's First Law and
Corollary: see Murphy's Third and Fifth Laws.
- Chisholm's Second
- When things are going well, something will
- When things just can't get any worse, they
- Anytime things appear to be going better,
you have overlooked something.
- Chisholm's Third
- Proposals, as understood by the proposer,
will be judged otherwise by others.
- If you explain so clearly that nobody can
misunderstand, somebody will.
- If you do something which you are sure will
meet with everyone's approval, somebody won't like it.
- Procedures devised to implement the purpose
won't quite work.
- No matter how long or how many times you
explain, no one is listening.
- The First Discovery of Christmas
Morning: Batteries not included.
- Churchill's Commentary on
- Man will occasionally stumble over the
truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on as though
nothing has happened.
- Ciardi's Poetry
- Whenever in time, and wherever in the
universe, any man speaks or writes in any detail about the technical
management of a poem, the resulting irascibility of the reader's response is a
- Clarke's First
- When a distinguished but elderly scientist
states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he
states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
(Asimov): When the lay public rallies round an idea that is
denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists, and supports that idea with
great fervor and emotion -- the distinguished but elderly scientists are then,
after all, right.
- Clarke's Second
- The only way to discover the limits of the
possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.
- Clarke's Third
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is
indistinguishable from magic.
- Clarke's Law of Revolutionary
- Every revolutionary idea -- in Science,
Politics, Art or Whatever -- evokes three stages of reaction. They may be
summed up by the three phrases:
- "It is completely impossible -- don't waste
- "It is possible, but it is not worth
- "I said it was a good idea all
- Clark's First Law of
- No matter how often you trade dinner or
other invitations with in-laws, you will lose a small fortune in the
- Corollary: Don't
try it: you cannot drink enough of your in-laws' booze to get even before your
- It's always darkest just before the lights
- Cleveland's Highway
- Highways in the worst need of repair
naturally have low traffic counts, which results in low priority for repair
- For every credibility gap there is a
- If you have something to do, and you put it
off long enough, chances are someone else will do it for you.
- What really matters is the name you succeed
in imposing on the facts -- not the facts themselves.
- Cohen's Laws of
- Law of
- Nothing can so alienate a voter from the
political system as backing a winning candidate.
- Law of
- At any one time, thousands of borough
councilmen, school board members, attorneys, and businessmen -- as well as
congressmen, senators, and governors -- are dreaming of the White House, but
few, if any of them, will make it.
- Law of
- Power attracts people but it cannot hold
- Law of
- The more qualified candidates who are
available, the more likely the compromise will be on the candidate whose main
qualification is a nonthreatening incompetence.
- Law of Inside
- There are many inside dopes in politics and
- Law of
- Those who express random thoughts to
legislative committees are often surprised and appalled to find themselves the
instigators of law.
- Law of
- Political power is as permanent as today's
newspaper. Ten years from now, few will know or care who the most powerful man
in any state was today.
- Law of
- The best way to publicize a governmental or
political action is to attempt to hide it.
- Law of
- Victory goes to the candidate with the most
accumulated or contributed wealth who has the financial resources to convince
the middle class and poor that he will be on their side.
- Law of
- Wisdom is considered a sign of weakness by
the powerful because a wise man can lead without power but only a powerful man
can lead without wisdom.
- Cohn's Law:
- The more time you spend in reporting on what
you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved
when you spend all your time doing nothing but reporting on the nothing you
- Cole's Law:
- Thinly sliced cabbage.
- Mr. Cole's
- The sum of the intelligence on the planet is
a constant; the population is growing.
- If you've got them by the balls, their
hearts and minds will follow.
- People will accept your idea much more
readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.
- Never arrive on time, or you will be stamped
- Don't say anything until the meeting is half
over; this stamps you as being wise.
- Be as vague as possible; this prevents
irritating the others.
- When in doubt, suggest that a subcommittee
- Be the first to move for adjournment; this
will make you popular -- it's what everyone is waiting for.
- Commoner's Three Laws of
- No action is without side-effects.
- Nothing ever goes away.
- There is no free lunch.
- Law of
- Any system or program, however complicated,
if looked at in exactly the right way, will become even more
- Law of Computability Applied to
- If at first you don't succeed, transform
your data set.
- Laws of computer
- Any given program, when running, is
- Any given program costs more and takes
- If a program is useful, it will have to be
- If a program is useless, it will have to be
- Any program will expand to fill available
- The value of a program is proportional to
the weight of its output.
- Program complexity grows until it exceeds
the capabilities of the programmer who must maintain it.
- Any non-trivial program contains at least
- Undetectable errors are infinite in variety,
in contrast to detectable errors, which by definition are limited.
- Adding manpower to a late software project
makes it later.
- Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic
Entomology: There's always one more bug.
- First Maxim of
- To err is human, but to really screw things
up requires a computer.
- Connolly's Law of Cost
- The price of any product produced for a
government agency will be not less than the square of the initial Firm
- Connolly's Rule for Political
- Short-term success with voters on any side
of a given issue can be guaranteed by creating a long-term special study
commission made up of at least three divergent interest groups.
- Technologie don't transfer.
- Whenever one word or letter can change the
entire meaning of a sentence, the probability of an error being made will be
in direct proportion to the embarrassment it will cause.
- Conway's Law
- If you assign N persons to write a compiler
you'll get a N-1 pass compiler.
- Conway's Law
- In every organization there will always be
one person who knows what is going on. - This person must be fired.
- In any decisive situation, the amount of
relevant information available is inversely proportional to the importance of
- Cook's Law:
- Much work, much food; little work, little
food; no work, burial at sea.
- Coolidge's Immutable
- When more and more people are thrown out of
work, unemployment results.
- All machines are amplifiers.
- A proliferation of new laws creates a
proliferation of new loopholes.
- Mr. Cooper's
- If you do not understand a particular word
in a piece of technical writing, ignore it. The piece will make perfect sense
- Corcoroni's Laws of Bus
- The bus that left the stop just before you
got there is your bus.
- The amount of time you have to wait for a
bus is directly proportional to the inclemency of the weather.
- All buses heading in the opposite direction
drive off the face of the earth and never return.
- The last rush-hour express bus to your
neighborhood leaves five minutes before you get off work.
- Bus schedules are arranged so your bus will
arrive at the transfer point precisely one minute after the connecting bus has
- Any bus that can be the wrong bus will be
the wrong bus. All others are out of service or full.
- Authority tends to assign jobs to those
least able to do them.
- Paper is always strongest at the
- If people listened to themselves more often,
they'd talk less.
- Crane's Law (Friedman's
- There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
- Mark Miller's Exception to
- There are no "free lunches", but sometimes
it costs more to collect money than to give away food.
- There are three ways to get something done:
do it yourself, hire someone, or forbid your kids to do it.
- When traveling with children on one's
holidays, at least one child of any number of children will request a rest
room stop exactly halfway between any two given rest areas.
- The amount of work done varies inversely
with the amount of time spent in the office.
- Culshaw's First Principle of
- Anything, no matter how bad, will sound good
if played back at a very high level for a short time.
- Cutler Webster's
- There are two sides to every argument unless
a man is personally involved, in which case there is only one.
- There is only one thing worse than dreaming
you are at a conference and waking to find that you are at a conference, and
that is the conference where you can't fall asleep.
- History repeats itself. That's one of the
things wrong with history.
- Nature will tell you a direct lie if she
- Dave's Law of
- Those with the best advice offer no
- Dave's Rule of Street
- Speak softly and own a big, mean
- Democracy is that form of government where
everybody gets what the majority deserves.
- Davis's Basic Law of
- Pills to be taken in twos always come out of
the bottle in threes.
- de la Lastra's
- After the last of 16 mounting screws has
been removed from an access cover, it will be discovered that the wrong access
cover has been removed.
- de la Lastra's
- After an access cover has been secured by 16
hold-down screws, it will be discovered that the gasket has been
- If the law-makers make a compromise, the
place where it will be felt most is the taxpayer's pocket.
- Corollary: The
compromise will always be more expensive than either of the suggestions it is
- Dean's Law of the District of
- Washington is a much better place if you are
asking questions rather than answering them.
- First Law of
- Never argue with a fool. People might not
know the difference.
- Everything takes more time and money.
- Deitz's Law of
- The fury engendered by the misspelling of a
name in a column is in direct ratio to the obscurity of the mentionee.
- Dennis's Principles of
Management by Crisis:
- To get action out of management, it is
necessary to create the illusion of a crisis in the hope it will be acted
- Management will select actions or events and
convert them to crises. It will then over-react.
- Management is incapable of recognizing a
- The squeaky hinge gets the oil.
- Dhawan's Laws for the
- The cigarette smoke always drifts in the
direction of the non-smoker regardless of the direction of the breeze.
- The amount of pleasure derived from a
cigarette is directly proportional to the number of non-smokers in the
- A smoker is always attracted to the
- The life of a cigarette is directly
proportional to the intensity of the protests from non-smokers.
- Food that tastes the best has the highest
number of calories.
- Dijkstra's Prescription for
- If you don't know what your program is
supposed to do, you'd better not start writing it.
- Diogenes's First
- The more heavily a man is supposed to be
taxed, the more power he has to escape being taxed.
- Diogenes's Second
- If a taxpayer thinks he can cheat safely, he
- Dirksen's Three Laws of
- Get elected.
- Get re-elected.
- Don't get mad -- get even.
- Principle of Displaced
- To beat the bureaucracy, make your problem
- Anything worth doing is worth doing for
- The specialist learns more and more about
less and less until, finally, he knows everything about nothing; whereas the
generalist learns less and less about more and more until, finally, he knows
nothing about everything.
- Laws of Dormitory
- The amount of trash accumulated within the
space occupied is exponentially proportional to the number of living bodies
that enter and leave within any given amount of time.
- Since no matter can be created or destroyed
(excluding nuclear and cafeteria substances), as one attempts to remove
unwanted material (i.e., trash) from one's living space, the remaining
material mutates so as to occupy 30 to 50 percent more than its original
- Corollary: Dust
- The odds are 6:5 that if one has late
classes, one's roommate will have the EARLIEST possible classes.
- Corollary 1:
- One's roommate (who has early classes) has
an alarm clock that is louder than God's own.
- Corollary 2:
- When one has an early class, one's roommate
will invariably enter the space late at night and suddenly become hyperactive,
ill, violent, or all three.
- Douglas's Law of Practical
- When the weight of the paperwork equals the
weight of the plane, the plane will fly.
- Dow's Law:
- In a hierarchical organization, the higher
the level, the greater the confusion.
- Dror's First
- While the difficulties and dangers of
problems tend to increase at a geometric rate, the knowledge and manpower
qualified to deal with these problems tend to increase linearly.
- Dror's Second
- While human capacities to shape the
environment, society, and human beings are rapidly increasing, policymaking
capabilities to use those capacities remain the same.
- Opportunity always knocks at the least
- Dude's Law of
- Of two possible events, only the undesired
one will occur.
- The territory behind rhetoric is too often
mined with equivocation.
- The shortest measurable interval of time is
the time between the moment one puts a little extra aside for a sudden
emergency and the arrival of that emergency.
- One of the lessons of history is that
nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.
- The faster the plane, the narrower the
- Dyer's Law:
- A continuing flow of paper is sufficient to
continue the flow of paper.
Second part of Merphy's
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Acknowledgments, Don Woods (update, last Aug 18, 1979)
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