## The Mathematics Of Murphy’s Law

“If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. “ is one way to express the famous adage known by such names as Murphy’s Law, Finagle’s Law, and Sod’s Law. Some people consider it a myth while others take it seriously. British mathematician Philip Obadya. working with colleagues David Lewis and Keylan Leyser, came up with a formula that statistically calculates the likelihood of this law. Working with a sample of over 1000 people. Obadya’s equation is:

$R_{SL}=\frac{[(U+C+1)\cdot (10-S)]}{20}\cdot\frac{A}{[1-\sin(F/10)]}$

To figure out the likelihood of the law occurring. you assign value to the variables in the formula as follows:

U stands for the urgency of a task and is given a value on a scale of 1 and 9, with 9 meaning most urgent.

Similarly for C stands for the complexity of a task and is assigned a value between I and 9.

S represents how skilled you are at performing the task, and also is assigned a value between 1 and 9.

A stands for aggravation. and is a constant. Its value is 0.7, which was determined by polling over 1000 people.

F stands for how frequently you perform the task, and is also assigned a value from 1 to 9.

The Rating of Sod’s Law, RSL, ends up ranging between 0 and 8.6, where the higher number warns you that it’s likely something may happen.

Obadya points out in Null Hypothesis, The Joumal of Unlikely Science that:

The lesson from that, to cut the seemingly unbeatable Sod’s Law Gremlins down to size you need to change one of the elements in the equation […] There is, of course, a Sod’s Law element to using the equation as well. So beware, If you judge your ratings wrongly, you might become too optimistic, allowing calamity to strike. Furthermore, knowing a priori the RSL value of a paI1icular task may well lead to over-confidence, producing a positive feedback mechanism by which the Sod’s Law rating increases still further.

In other words, even the knowledge of the mathematics behind Murphy’s Law will not save you from it!

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. I blog at learnfunfacts.com. You can find me on Twitter @EdmarkMLaw and Facebook. My email is learnfunfacts@gmail.com
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### 2 Responses to The Mathematics Of Murphy’s Law

1. Surprising the aggravation value isn’t higher.

As for Murphy’s Law, #3 and #5 have pretty much been constants in my life. 😀

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• It seems those researchers underestimated Murphy’s Law or perhaps Murphy’s Law is also at work here since lower R_SL would boost your confidence level… then voila! “Life” happens. 🙂

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