And You Thought It Was Just Bad Luck


Science constantly comes up with little wonders as well as grand ones. Consider this from the current issue of Scientific American magazine: Murphy’s Law is more than just a joke. There is evidence that some little things in life go wrong for a rational reason, not just because life is cruel.

As commonly known, Murphy’s Law states that if anything can go wrong, it will. One example given by the author of the article, Robert A.J. Matthews, a visiting research fellow at Aston University in England, is that if a piece of buttered toast falls from a table, it always seems to land butter-side down.

In fact, Matthews found, there are sound physical reasons why the toast will land butter-side down after falling from a standard-height table. It’s because as the toast falls there’s only time for it to tumble halfway around. From a taller table, the result would be different.


Matthews also examined a corollary: If odd socks can be created, they will be. Citing probability theory and the mathematical study of arrangements, Matthews found, “If we started with 10 complete pairs, by the time half our socks have gone missing, it is four times more likely that we will be left with a drawerful of odd socks rather than one containing only complete pairs.”

Alas, science can’t explain everything, like why it rains more on weekends than on weekdays. Well, Matthews said, some Murphy’s Law examples just aren’t true.

Hmm. Maybe. But don’t bet your socks on it.