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Murphy’s Law in Science

Murphy’s law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.  Nowhere is this law more abundantly evident than in the life of a scientist.  Here are just a few of the examples that I’ve witnessed:

  • if you drop one tube from the whole rack, it will be the one that contained your most important sample.
  • if you’ve forgotten your key to the lab, it will be the one day that everyone else is off.
  • if you have just reorganized the -80°C freezer,  there will be a power outage that weekend.
  • if you misspell one word in the final, ready-for-publication manuscript, it will be your name.
  • if the projector suddenly displays everything in a vivid shade of red, it will be directly before your committee meeting.
  • if you’ve just taken a huge bite of your bagel, the judges will be showing up to talk about your poster.
  • if you need that sterile media today, the autoclave will malfunction and lock your flasks inside.
  • if you take five minutes out of a busy day to check your email, that will be the moment that your PI walks in to see what you’re doing.

How have your experiences confirmed Murphy’s Law in science?

4 Comments

  1. John Mackay on May 24, 2010 at 3:43 am

    Hmm. . .mine would be a version of 1. You’ll drop your rack of tubes and find all of them except the one you actually wanted. You will not find this tube again until you are on your hands and knees again looking for tubes you drop next time.

    You will be 10ml short of ready to use agarose for your next gel. making up a large volume again you will be out of (tick one) agarose/buffer/eth brom

    There is the additional law: “Muphy was an optimist”

    Of course, if at first you don’t succeed. . . then skydiving is not for you

  2. Christopher Dieni on May 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    The gel which you’ve Coomassie stained will seemingly take especially longer to destain on a Friday afternoon, at 5:30 PM, when all you want to do is go home and recover from the week’s worth of exhaustion.

    And, similar to your last bullet point: the success rate of experiments is directly proportional to time remaining before a meeting with your PI, in which you’re expected to update them on your progress.

  3. Gough Au on May 21, 2010 at 10:42 am

    so true!

    The chances of random glassware breakage in the incubator is directly proportional to the importance of the contents.

    Also, environmental organisms living in the lab are aware of your timetable and will preferentially contaminate urgent cultures.

  4. Suzanne Kennedy on May 20, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    The journal club or departmental seminar you decided to skip because of the boring title will be the best one of the year and everyone will talk about it for weeks.

    Two weeks before the poster needs to be ready for ASM, and the final data needs to be run, is when the sequencing instrument breaks down.

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