Now, the formula that predicts when Sod's Law will strike next
AUTHOR Jerome K Jerome bemoaned the fact that while wearing boots a man would never bump into anything, but would stub his toe shortly after putting on sandals, while fellow writer Maurice Rock quipped: "Any body plunged in liquid receives a phone call".
The infuriating certainty of Sod’s Law - that if something can go wrong, it will and most likely at the worst possible moment - has caused consternation down the ages.
But now a team of freelance academics has come up with a formula, which they claim will help ordinary people "cut the seemingly unbeatable Sod’s Law gremlins down to size".
The saviour of the hapless and the accident-prone - assuming they have access to a calculator - is: ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10)).
Dr Keelan Leyser, a London-based economist who also performs as a magician, the psychologist Dr David Lewis, formerly of Sussex University, and a consultant mathematician, Philip Obadya, also based in London, worked out the formula after studying the experiences of 1,000 Sod’s Law victims and also helpfully came up with a seven-step guide on how to perform the calculation.
The formula looks at five factors relating to any event or action: urgency (U), complexity (C), importance (I), skill (S) and frequency (F).
A score of between one and nine is applied to each of these factors, with a 0.7 score for aggravation (A), and then the formula can be used to find a Sod’s Law rating of between zero and ten.
The higher the number, the more likely it is that someone will fall foul of Sod’s Law.
For instance, wearing a new shirt when going on a first date only increases the chances of spilling a drink on it before meeting the person, and, despite having a drawer full of spare lightbulbs, none of them ever matches the bulb that has just blown.
Dr Lewis said: "The lesson from this is that, to cut the seemingly unbeatable Sod’s Law gremlins down to size, change one of the elements in the equation.
"If you haven’t the skill to do something important, leave it alone. If something is urgent or complex, find a simple way to do it. If something going wrong will aggravate you, make sure you know how to do it.
"For example, you spill a drink on yourself before a date because making the important decision of what to wear, you forget all you knew about getting a cup to your lips and throw tea down yourself. So concentrate harder on drinking."
The study, which was commissioned by British Gas, might have helped United States Air Force Captain Edward Murphy who became known for doing experiments that always went wrong when performed in front of a more senior officer during the Second World War. In the US, Sod’s Law is known as Murphy’s Law.
The survey found that the top ten most likely examples of Sod’s Law included spilling something on your clothes before a first date at No1, followed by the boiler breaking down during a cold snap and rush-hour traffic being worse when you are late.
The others included computer crashes just as an e-mail containing an important document is sent, a washing machine breaking down just before a holiday and the cooker breaking down when you are expecting guests.
Anne Morton, of British Gas, said: "In our experts’ tests, the mercilessness of Sod’s Law emerged. Not only do things go wrong, they do so when they are most likely to drive their victims up the wall.
"For example, Sod’s Law shows how cruel it can be when it comes to the shower turning cold just as you’ve shampooed. But because men aren’t bothered as much, the chances of it happening to them are low. Women hate it and it happens far more to them."
Dr Chris Theobald, of Edinburgh University’s maths department, an expert on decision theory, modelling human sensory data and "probabilistic risk assessment", told The Scotsman: "It’s obviously not serious. It sounds like a bit of fun.
"Sod’s Law is probably because you remember things that occur at a bad time more than you do things that don’t. It’s more of a psychological thing than a mathematical one, I would suspect."
Dr Theobald’s work deals with issues such as advising farmers on how much seed or fertiliser to use on a field to be as cost-efficient as possible.
He doubted he would use the Sod’s Law formula in his daily life: "I’m not sure I would believe anyone else’s formula."
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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