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Posted By Peter Bentley
When I wrote The Undercover Scientist I (perhaps naively) never thought in a million years I would get questions like this... But today I did. Here's how I responded (part 1).

1) Ordinary people have long known that computers crash on deadline and cars break down in emergencies, while previous studies have shown the law, also called Sod's Law, is not a myth and toast really does fall buttered side down. But in 2004 a panel of experts (David Lewis, matematico Philip Obadya e Keelan Leyser) has provided the statistical rule for predicting the law of "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" - or ((U+C+I) x (10- S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10)).

So, do you think it is possible to break Murphy's Law?

The Undercover Scientist is about those everyday mishaps that happen without blame or fault. I use each mishap to open the door to scientific principles that explain our behaviour and the technology we use. I'm afraid there is no sound scientific evidence that shows Sod's Law or Murphy's Law is anything more than a misconception - toast does not have a tendency to fall in the way we do not want it to. Sometimes things go wrong when we're stressed and working to a tight deadline, but this is because we make mistakes and we inadvertently stress our technology until it fails - there are lots of examples of this in the book. However, there is certainly evidence to show that if you believe in such "laws" and your behaviour is affected by your own superstitious beliefs then the result will be as though such laws exist. Your superstitious beliefs cause you to act differently from normal and cause the very mishaps you are afraid of. Thus Murphy's Law is nothing more than a construct in your own mind - to break it, just don't believe in it.

2) Why do you chose this topic?

I am a scientist who is trying to show how exciting and interesting science really is. The whole purpose of the book is to show there is always a rational (and often fascinating, fun and exciting) explanation for all the everyday events that happen to us. It shows that superstition really has nothing to do with misfortune. What really counts is the physics, chemistry, biology that underlies us and our technology.

3) "Fortune is blind, but bad luck has perfect eyesight". Is it true?

It is only true if you make it so for yourself. Personally I am a strong believer that we make our own luck - if you want something good to happen, then push for it; if something happens that you don't like, then turn it into something positive by learning from it. Again, this is what The Undercover Scientist does - it provides fascinating and entertaining new knowledge from mishaps.


 
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