Who was Murphy in Murphy’s Law? (And the Hero Dr. John Paul Stapp Who Gave Us the Expression)

The universe has been finding ways to mess
with people long before Edward A. Murphy uttered his famed statement in the aftermath of Dr.
John Paul Stapp strapping himself onto a rocket powered sled. One of the earliest instances of this “law”
being stated explicitly happened in 1877 where Alfred Holt, in an address to the Institution
of Civil Engineers, said, “It is found that anything that can go wrong at sea generally
does go wrong sooner or later…” By 1908, it had become a well-loved maxim
among magicians as well, as explained by Nevil Maskelyne in The Magic Circular: “It is an
experience common to all men to find that, on any special occasion . . . everything that
can go wrong will go wrong…” This was reiterated by Adam Hull Shirk in
The Sphinx in 1928, “It is an established fact that in nine cases out of ten whatever
can go wrong in a magical performance will do so.” This all brings us to our unsung hero of the
hour, Dr. John Paul Stapp- a man whose work has saved hundreds of thousands of lives since,
and who Joseph Kittinger- who famously did a high altitude jump from 102,800 ft- called
the “bravest man I’ve ever met… He knew the effects of what he was getting
himself into… And he never hesitated.” Born in Brazil, the son of American missionaries
there, Stapp eventually became an English major in college, but he changed career paths
due to a traumatic incident that occurred during his Christmas break of 1928 when a
2 year old cousin of his was severely burned in a fireplace. Stapp helped to try to nurse the child back
to health, but efforts failed and, 63 hours after getting burned, the toddler died. Said Stapp, “It was the first time I had ever
seen anyone die. I decided right then I wanted to be a doctor.” Unable to afford to go to medical school initially,
after he earned a Master’s Degree in Zoology, he instead started teaching chemistry and
zoology at Decatur College in Texas while he saved up money. Two years later, he attended the University
of Texas where he got a PhD in Biophysics. Next up, he went to the University of Minnesota
Medical School and got a Doctor of Medicine degree while working as a research assistant
there. Initially planning on becoming a pediatrician,
Stapp changed career paths after joining the Army Medical Corps during WWII. While working as a flight surgeon, among other
things, he was heavily involved in designing high altitude oxygen systems as well as studying
the effects of high altitude/high speed flight on the human body. The end goal of all of this was to create
better safety systems for pilots. During this time, he became puzzled at how
some people would survive crashes, even extreme ones, while others in similar or lesser crashes
would receive fatal injuries. This all brings us around to Project MX-981
at the Edwards Air Force Base in 1945. Up until this point, the prevailing theory
was that a human body could not withstand more than 18Gs of force without suffering
a fatal injury. The problem here was that airplanes of the
age were flying faster and higher than ever. As such, the military wanted to know if their
pilots could safely eject at these high velocities without being killed, as well as to try to
design the safest possible system for doing so. Testing towards this end was overseen by Dr.
Stapp, using a rocket powered sled called the “Gee Whiz”. This was placed on rails on a 2000 foot track,
at the end of which was an approximately 50 foot long section where a hydraulic braking
system would stop the 1500 lb sled in its tracks. The passenger aboard the cart was to initially
be a 185 lb dummy named Oscar Eightball and then later chimpanzees. Stapp, however, had other ideas. He wanted to see what an actual human could
handle, stating of Oscar Eightball at the project’s onset, “You can throw this away. I’m going to be the test subject.” David Hill, who was in charge of collecting
the test data throughout the experiments and making sure all the telemetry gear stayed
working, said of this, they all thought Dr. Stapp must be joking as “We had a lot of experts
come out and look at our situation. And there was a person from M.I.T. who said,
if anyone gets 18 Gs, they will break every bone in their body. That was kind of scary.” Dr. Stapp, however, used his extensive knowledge
of human physiology, as well as analyzing various crashes where people must have survived
more than 18Gs of force, and determined the 18G limit was absurdly low if a proper restraint
system was designed and used. That said, Dr. Stapp wasn’t stupid, but rather
an excellent and meticulous researcher, who would soon earn the nickname, “The Careful
Daredevil”. Thus, step one was first to design a proper
restraint system and work out all the kinks in the testing apparatus. Towards this end, they conducted nearly three
dozen trial runs using the dummy, which turned out to be for the best. For example, in test run number one, both
the main and secondary braking systems didn’t work owing to the triggering teeth breaking
off, and, instead of stopping, Gee Whiz and Oscar Eightball shot off the tracks into the
desert. Funny enough, after the teeth were beefed
up, the braking cams engaged, but themselves immediately broke… In yet another catastrophic failure, the forces
were so extreme that Oscar broke free from his restraints. The result of this was his rubber face literally
being ripped off thanks to the windscreen in front of his head. As for the rest of his body, it went flying
through the air well over 700 feet (over 200 meters) from where the Gee Whiz stopped. This brings us to about two years into the
project on December 10, 1947 when Dr. Stapp decided it was his turn to be the dummy. Initially strapping himself in facing backwards-
a much safer way to experience extreme G-forces- the first run with a human aboard was a rather
quaint 10Gs during the braking period. After this, they continued to improve the
restraint system as Dr. Stapp slowly ramped up the Gs all the way to 35 within six months
of that first run. He stated of this, “The men at the mahogany
desks thought the human body would never take 18 Gs; here we’re taking twice that with
no sweat!” And by “no sweat”, of course, he no doubt
meant that throughout the tests, he’d suffered a hemorrhaged retina, fractured rib, lost
several fillings from his teeth, got a series of concussions, cracked his collarbone, developed
an abdominal hernia, developed countless bloody blisters caused by sand hitting his skin at
extreme velocities, severe bruising, shattering his wrists, and fracturing his coccyx. But, you know, “no sweat”. While recovering, if further tests needed
conducting in the interim, he did begin allowing other volunteers to do the job, but as soon
as he was healthy enough again, Dr. Stapp was back in the seat instead. One of his coworkers on the project, George
Nichols, stated that Stapp couldn’t bare the idea of someone being seriously injured or
killed in experiments he was conducting, so whenever possible made himself the guinea
pig instead. Of course, in order for the research to be
as useful as possible and for other scientists to believe what Dr. Stapp was managing to
endure, extremely accurate sensors were needed, which is where one Captain Edward A. Murphy
comes in. For a little background on Murphy, beyond
very briefly helping out on this project, the highlights of his career included working
on the SR-71, XB-70 Valkyrie, X-15 rocket plane, and helping to design the life support
system for the Apollo missions. Going back to Dr. Stapp’s project, at the
time Murphy was working on a separate project at Wright Field involving centrifuge, including
designing some new sensor systems in the process. When Dr. Stapp heard about this, he asked
if Murphy wouldn’t mind adapting the sensors for use in Project MX-981, to which Murphy
happily complied. More specifically, Murphy’s sensor system
would allow them to directly measure the G forces on the passenger, rather than relying
on measuring the G forces on the sled body itself. Now, before we go any further, we should point
out that exact details of what occurred over the two days Murphy was directly involved
in the project have been lost to history, despite many first hand accounts from several
people. You might think it would make it easy to sort
out given this, but human memory being what it is, the accounts from those who were there
vary considerably. Illustrating this point in the most poignant
way possible we have a quote from Chuck Yeager, who was good friends with Dr. Stapp. In the quote, Yeager was responding to the
widely reported idea that Yeager had sought out Dr. Stapp to clear him for his famous
flight where he broke the sound barrier. As to why he chose Dr. Stapp, Yeager supposedly
felt that no other doctor but Stapp would clear him on account of Yeager’s supposedly
broken ribs. Yeager’s response to this almost universally
reported story is as follows: “That’s a bunch of crap!… That’s the way rumors get started, by these
people…who weren’t even there…” He goes on,
“that’s the same kind of crap…you get out of guys who were not involved and came
in many years after. It’s just like Tom Brokaw’s book if you’ll
pardon the analogy here, about the best of the breed or something like that. Well, every guy who wrote his story about
World War II did it fifty years after it happened. I’m a victim of the same damn thing. I tell it the way I remember it, and that’s
not the way it happened. I go back and I read a report that I did 55
years ago and I say, hmm, I’d better tell that story a little bit different. Well, that’s human nature. You tell it the way you believe it and that’s
not necessarily the way that it happened. There’s nothing more true than that.” During this impressive and extremely accurate
rant about how difficult it is to get an accurate report of some historic event, even from those
who were there, he notes of those writing about these things after, “Guys become, if
you’ll pardon my expression, sexual intellectuals. You know what the phrase is for that? Sexual intellectuals. They’re fucking know-it-alls, that’s what.” And, we’re not going to lie, we mostly just
included that little anecdote because we’re pretty sure “Sexual Intellectuals (Fucking
Know-It-Alls)” is the greatest description of the staff and subscribers of TodayIFoundOut
we’ve ever come across, and we kind of wish we’d named the channel that (and are pretty
sure we’re going to make a t-shirt out of it…) In any event, that caveat about the inherent
inaccuracy of reporting history out of the way, this finally brings us around to the
story of how Murphy and his law became a thing. The general story that everybody seems to
agree on is that Murphy or another worker there installed Murphy’s sensors and then
a chimpanzee was strapped into the sled to test them out. (Note here, that years later in an interview
with People Magazine, Murphy would claim it was Dr. Stapp that was strapped in.) After the test run, however, they found the
sensors hadn’t worked at all, meaning the whole expensive and dangerous test had been
run for nothing. As to exactly why the sensors hadn’t worked,
there are a few versions of this tale. As for the aforementioned David Hill, he states
that it was one of his own assistants, either Jerry Hollabaugh or Ralph DeMarco, he couldn’t
remember which, who installed the sensors incorrectly. As Hill explained in an interview with Nick
T. Spake, author of the book A History of Murphy’s Law, “If you take these two over
here and add them together. You get the correct amount of G-forces. But if you take these two and mount them together,
one cancels the other out and you get zero.” George Nichols, however, claimed Hill and
DeMarco had both double checked the wiring before hand, but had missed that it had been
wired up backwards. That said, Nichols stated it wasn’t DeMarco
nor Hill’s fault, as the wiring had been done back at Wright Field by Murphy’s team. Said Nichols, “When Murphy came out in the
morning, and we told him what happened… he was unhappy…” Stating, “If that guy [his assistant] has
any way of making a mistake… He will.” Nichols, however, blamed Murphy as Murphy
should have examined the sensor system before hand to ensure it had been wired correctly,
as well as tested the sensors before they were ever installed in the sled, and on top
of it all should have given them time to test everything themselves before a live run on
the sled. However, as Murphy was only to be there for
two days, he’d supposedly rushed them. Nichols stated this inspired the team to not
repeat Murphy’s mistakes. Said Nichols, “If it can happen, it will happen… So you’ve got to go through and ask yourself,
if this part fails, does this system still work, does it still do the function it is
supposed to do? What are the single points of failure? Murphy’s Law established the drive to put
redundancy in. And that’s the heart of reliability engineering.” Hill also claims this ultimately morphed into
the mantra among the group, “if anything can go wrong, it will.” As for Murphy himself, years later in an interview
with People Magazine, he would state what he originally said was, “If there’s more
than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody
will do it that way.” He then claimed when Dr. Stapp heard this,
directly after the failed sled run, he shortened it and called it “Murphy’s Law”, saying “from
now on we’re going to have things done according to Murphy’s Law.” In yet another interview, Murphy painted an
entirely different picture than accounts from Hill and Nichols’, stating he’d sent the sensors
ahead of time, and had only gone there to investigate when they’d malfunctioned. He stated when he looked into it, “they had
put the strain gauges on the transducers ninety degrees off.” Importantly here, contrary to what the other
witnesses said of how Murphy had blamed his assistant, in the interview, Murphy said it
was his own fault, “I had made very accurate drawings of the thing for them, and discussed
it with the people who were going to make them… but I hadn’t covered everything. I didn’t tell them that they had positively
to orient them in only one direction. So I guess about that time I said, ‘Well,
I really have made a terrible mistake here, I didn’t cover every possibility.’ And about that time, Major Stapp says, ‘Well,
that’s a good candidate for Murphy’s Law’. I thought he was going to court martial me. But that’s all he said.” Murphy then went on to explain to the interviewer
that he actually didn’t remember the exact words he said at the time, noting “I don’t
remember. It happened thirty five years ago, you know.” This might all have you wondering how exactly
this statement that nobody seemed to be able to remember clearly came to be so prevalent
in public consciousness? It turns out, beyond being incredibly brave,
brilliant, and hell-bent on saving lives, even if it cost him his own, Dr. Stapp was
also hilarious from all accounts from people describing him. He even wrote a book with jokes and various
witty sayings called For Your Moments of Inertia. For example, “I’m as lonely as a cricket with
arthritis.” or “Better a masochist than never been kissed…” Or how about this gem from an interview where
he was asked about any lasting effects on him as a result of the experiments- Dr. Stapp
wryly responded, the only residual negative effect was “all the lunches and dinners I
have to go to now…” Beyond all this, he was also a collector of
“Laws”, even coming up with one of his own, Stapp’s Law- “The universal aptitude for ineptitude
makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle.” When collecting these laws, he would name
them after the person he heard them from, though often re-wording them to be more succinct,
which, for whatever it’s worth, seems to align most closely to Murphy’s own account of how
“his” law came about. And as for this then becoming something the
wider public found out about, during one of his interviews about the project, Dr. Stapp
was asked, “How is it that no one has been severely injured — or worse — during your
tests?” It was here that Stapp stated, he wasn’t too
worried about it because the entire team adhered to “Murphy’s Law”. He then explained that they always kept in
mind that whatever could go wrong, would, and thus, extreme effort was made to think
up everything that could go wrong and fix it before the test was actually conducted. Going back to Project MX-981, having now reached
35 Gs after 26 runs by himself and several others by 11 volunteers, Dr. Stapp needed
a faster sled. After all, at this point humans were flying
at super sonic speeds and whether or not they could survive ejecting at those speeds needed
to be known. Enter the Sonic Wind at Holloman Air Force
Base in New Mexico. This sled could use up to 12 rockets capable
of producing a combined 50,000 pounds of thrust, resulting in speeds as high as 750 mph. The track was about 3,550 feet long, with
the braking system using water scoops. The braking could then be varied by raising
or lowering the water level slightly. This now brings us to December 10, 1954, when
Dr. Stapp would pull off his most daring and final experiment. Previous to this run, Dr. Stapp stated, “I
practiced dressing and undressing with the lights out so if I was blinded I wouldn’t
be helpless”, as he assumed he would probably be blind afterwards, if he survived at all. He would also state when he was sitting there
waiting for the rockets to be fired, “I said to myself, ‘Paul, it’s been a good life.'” In order to stop his arms and legs from flapping
involuntarily in the wind during the test, they were securely strapped down and a mouth
guard was inserted to keep his teeth from breaking off. All set, he then blasted off on his 29th and
final sled run, using nine solid fuel rockets, capable of producing 40,000 pounds of thrust. As an interesting aside here, beyond ground
based cameras, none other than Joe Kittinger piloted a T-33 over head with a photographer
in back filming it. As for the sled, it accelerated from 0 up
to 632 miles per hour (1,017 kilometers per hour) in a mere 5 seconds, resulting in about
20 Gs of force on the acceleration phase. Then, in the span of just 1.4 seconds, he
came to a full stop, experiencing 46.2 G’s of force in the other direction, meaning his
body weighed almost 7,000 pounds at the peak G force! In the process, he had also set the record
for highest landspeed of any human. Said Kittinger of watching this, “He was going
like a bullet… He went by me like I was standing still, and
I was going 350 mph… I thought, that sled is going so damn fast
the first bounce is going to be Albuquerque. I mean, there was no way on God’s earth that
sled could stop at the end of the track. No way. He stopped in a fraction of a second. It was absolutely inconceivable that anybody
could go that fast and then just stop, and survive.” Nevertheless, when he was unstrapped from
the chair, Dr. Stapp was alive, but as Nichols would observe, “His eyes had hemorrhaged and
were completely filled with blood. It was horrible. Absolutely horrible.” As for Dr. Stapp, he would state, it felt
“like being assaulted in the rear by a fast freight train.” And that on the deceleration phase, “I felt
a sensation in the eyes…somewhat like the extraction of a molar without anesthetic.” He had also cracked some ribs, broken his
wrists, and had some internal injuries to his respiratory and circulatory systems. And on the note of his eyes, he was initially
blind after, with it assumed that his retinas had detached. However, upon investigation, it was determined
they had not, and within a few hours his sight mostly came back, with minor residual effects
on his vision that lasted the rest of his life. Apparently not knowing when to quit, once
he had healed up, he planned yet another experiment to really see the limits of human endurance
via strapping himself to that same sled and attempting to reach 1,000 mph this time… When asked why, he stated, “I took my risks
for information that will always be of benefit. Risks like those are worthwhile.” To lead up to this, he conducted further experiments,
going all the way up to 80Gs with a test dummy, at which point the Sonic Wind itself ripped
off the tracks and was damaged. It is probably for the best that it was here
that his superiors stepped in. As you might imagine given his end goal was
seemingly to figure out the extreme upper limit of G forces a human could survive with
a perfected restraint system, and to use himself as the guinea pig until he found that limit,
Dr. Stapp had previously run into the problem of his superiors ordering him to stop and
instead to use chimpanzees exclusively. But while he did occasionally use chimpanzees,
he went ahead and ignored the direct order completely. After all, he needed to be able to feel it
for himself or be able to talk to the person experiencing the effects of the extreme Gs
to get the best possible data. And, of course, no better way to find out
what a human could take than use a human. Rather than getting in trouble, he ultimately
got a promotion thanks to the extreme benefits of his work. However, after his 46.2G run, they decided
to shut down the experiment altogether as a way to get him to listen. After all, he had already achieved the intended
goal of helping to develop better restraint and ejection systems, and proved definitively
that a human could survive ejecting at the fastest speeds aircraft of the day could travel. Now, at this point you might be thinking that’s
all quite impressive, but that’s not Dr. Stapp helping to save “hundreds of thousands” of
lives as we stated before. So how did he do that? Well, during the experiments, Dr. Stapp became
acutely aware that with a proper restraint system, most car accidents should be survivable,
yet most cars of the age not only didn’t have any restraint systems whatsoever, they also
were generally designed in ways to maximize injury in a crash with unforgiving surfaces,
strong frames and bodies that would not crumple on impact, doors that would pop open in crashes,
flinging occupants out, etc. In fact, Dr. Stapp frequently pointed out
to his superiors that they lost about as many pilots each year to car accidents as they
did in the air. So while developing great safety systems in
the planes was all well and good, they’d save a lot of lives simply by installing a restraint
system into the cars of all their pilots and requiring they use them. The military didn’t take this advice, but
Dr. Stapp wasn’t about to give up. After all, tens of thousands of people each
year in the U.S. alone were dying in car accidents when he felt many shouldn’t have. Thus, in nearly every interview he gave about
his famous experiments almost from the very beginning of the project, he would inevitably
guide the conversation around to the benefits of what they were doing if adopted in automobiles. Not stopping there, he went on a life-long
public campaign talking to everyone from car manufacturers to politicians, trying to get
it required that car manufacturers include seat belts in their vehicles, as well as sharing
his team’s data and restraint system designs. Beyond that, he used his clout within the
Air Force to convince them to allow him to conduct a series of experiments into auto
safety, test crashing cars in a variety of ways using crash test dummies and, in certain
carefully planned tests, volunteer humans, to observe the effects. This was one of the first times anyone had
tried such a scientifically rigorous, broad look into commercial automobile safety. He also tested various restraint systems,
in some tests subjecting the humans to as high as a measured 28 Gs. Results in hand, in May of 1955 he held a
conference to bring together automobile engineers, scientists, safety council members and others
to come observe the tests and learn of the results of his team’s research. He then repeated this for a few years until
Stapp was reassigned by the Air Force, at which point he requested Professor James Ryan
of the University of Minnesota host the 4th annual such event, which Ryan then named the
“Stapp Car-Crash and Field Demonstration Conference”, which is still held today. Besides this and other ways he championed
improvement in automobile safety, he also served as a medical advisor for the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics,
in both heavily pushing for better safety systems. It is no coincidence that not long after Dr.
Stapp started these campaigns, car manufacturers started installing seatbelts as a matter of
course, as well as started to put much more serious thought into making cars safer in
crashes. In the end, while Dr. Stapp got little public
credit for helping to convince car manufacturers to prioritize automobile safety, and provided
much of the initial data to help them design such systems, he was at least invited to be
present when President Johnson signed the bill that made seat belts required in cars
in 1966. Bonus Facts:
• Besides ignoring direct orders to stop using himself as a guinea pig, other ways
Dr. Stapp apparently used to frequently flout the rules was to, on his own time, freely
treat dependents of people who worked at Edwards’ who were nonetheless not eligible for medical
care. He would typically do this via doing house
calls to airmen’s homes to keep the whole thing secret, including apparently attending
to Chuck Yeager’s sons in this way according to Yeager. • It turns out Murphy was also good friends
with none other than Lawrence Peter, remembered today for the Peter Principal- people inevitably
get promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. According Murphy’s son, Robert, at one point
Peter and Murphy tried to get together with Cyril Northcote Parkinson of Parkinson’s Law-
“Work expands to meet the time and money that is available.” However, Robert claims that fateful meeting
ended up getting canceled when other matters came up to prevent the get together. • One other strong safety recommendation
Dr. Stapp pushed for, particularly in aviation, was to turn passenger seats around to face
backwards, as this is drastically safer in crashes. And, at least in aviation would be simple
to do on any commercial airline, requiring no modification other than to turn the seat
around in its track. As Stapp and subsequent research by NASA shows,
humans can take the most G-forces and receive fewer injuries overall with “eyes back” force,
where the G-forces are pushing you back into your seat, with the seat cushions themselves
also lending a hand in overall safety. This also insures tall people won’t smack
their heads and bodies against anything in front of them in a crash. Despite the massive safety benefits here for
people of all ages, outside of car seats for babies and toddlers, nobody anywhere seems
interested in leveraging the extreme benefits of rear facing passengers to increase general
safety. • If you’re wondering about the safest place
on a plane to sit, funny enough, that’s the rear. In fact, you’re approximately 40% more likely
to survive a plane crash if you sit in the back of the plane, rather than the front. The other advantage to the rear is that most
passengers choose not to sit in the back. So unless the plane is full, you might get
a row of seats to yourself. (Of course, a bathroom is also often in the
rear on planes, soooo.) Another factor to consider is where the closest
exit is. As a general rule, studies examining accidents
have shown you’ll want to be within six rows of an emergency exit to maximize your survival
chances. So if the plane doesn’t have a rear exit,
that’s something to be factored in. • During Joe Kittinger’s then record leap
from about 102,800 feet on August 16, 1960, the following happened during the ascent:
“At 43,000 feet, I find out [what can go wrong]. My right hand does not feel normal. I examine the pressure glove; its air bladder
is not inflating. The prospect of exposing the hand to the near-vacuum
of peak altitude causes me some concern. From my previous experiences, I know that
the hand will swell, lose most of its circulation, and cause extreme pain…. I decide to continue the ascent, without notifying
ground control of my difficulty… Circulation has almost stopped in my unpressurized
right hand, which feels stiff and painful… [Upon landing] Dick looks at the swollen hand
with concern. Three hours later the swelling disappeared
with no ill effect.” His total ascent took 1 hour and 31 minutes,
he stayed at the peak altitude for 12 minutes, and his total decent took 13 minutes and 45
seconds, so his hand was exposed to a near vacuum for quite some time without long term
ill effects. For more on how incredibly well the human
body deals with the near vacuum of space, see our video: How Long Could a Person Survive
Without a Space Suit in Space Incidentally, during his fall, he achieved
a peak speed of 614 mph, nearly as fast as Dr. Stapp had managed in his little rocket
sled. His experience, however, was very different
than Dr. Stapp’s. Said Kittinger,
“There’s no way you can visualize the speed. There’s nothing you can see to see how fast
you’re going. You have no depth perception. If you’re in a car driving down the road and
you close your eyes, you have no idea what your speed is. It’s the same thing if you’re free falling
from space. There are no signposts. You know you are going very fast, but you
don’t feel it. You don’t have a 614-mph wind blowing on you. I could only hear myself breathing in the helmet.”


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  2. In the aviation and engineering community there are two or three origin stories for Murphy's Law that attribute it to a military officer in the Navy, Army Air Corp or Air Force, but all of them pre-date the story told in this video. There are variant versions but they all essentially say, "If a part can be installed incorrectly it will be." From this came a common phrase still in use, "to Murphy proof" that is to design critical assemblies to prevent or minimize the possibility of an assembly or maintenance error. By the 1960s the term was used in many technical areas, not just aviation.

    The generalized statements, second laws and corollaries seem to be just the natural consequence of smart people having some fun and repeating the joke.

    Anyway it made good sense when it came to parts in engines, fuel lines, and flight controls designed by PhDs and engineers but worked on by a HS grad standing in the rain counting the days until his discharge.

    I think that we may never know who Murphy was or if he actually said anything like the law. He may have been an Egyptian chariot driver unhappy about the design of a failed wheel.

  3. Is this also the origin of the phrase, “bust a butt/an ass” ? Broken tailbone incurred by him as a result of him working hard. Hence, the euphemism. Just a stupid coincidence? Or, does the phrase originate some other way?

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