THE TIMES Monday February timesonline co uk youngtimes If

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					THE TIMES Monday February 16 2009

If it can go wrong, it will
Is there a scientific law for bad luck, wonders Chloe Lambert
You might put it down to plain old bad luck, but when unfortunate things happen it’s also known as Murphy’s Law. The theory, which is 60 years old this year, quite simply states: if something can go wrong, it will! The law is named after an American fighter pilot called Edward Murphy, who went to work as an aeroplane designer after the Second World War. Back in 1949 he did an experiment to test human tolerance of gravity. Murphy wanted volunteers to ride in a rocket-powered sledge which travelled along a track at 200mph for half a mile, then came to an abrupt stop in less than a second. They were hooked up with sensors so that Murphy could see how their bodies reacted. A brave flight surgeon agreed to take part in Murphy’s experiment, but something went terribly wrong. He suffered broken bones, concussion and burst blood vessels in his eyes.To make matters worse, when Murphy checked the sensors, he saw to his horror that they had not picked up any readings. His assistant had installed them the wrong way round! Furious, Murphy said of his assistant: “If there are two ways to do something and one of those ways will result in disaster, he’ll do it that way.” This remark was later translated as “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” Have you ever experienced terrible luck? Tell us at

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Do you always leave your umbrella at home on the day it rains? When you look in your sock drawer, why is there never a pair?

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Dingbat Which word or phrase is this? Say what you see

Have you ever waited ages for a bus, only for three of them to arrive at once?

Friday’s answer Take it from me

Puzzle of the day: spiral
Write the answer to each clue in the spiral, but be careful - the last letter of one asnwer is the first letter of the next! Then write out the letters in the pink circles in order below the grid to find a famous scientist. CLUES 1 Church walkway (5) 2 Round Dutch cheese (4) 3 Picture made of small pieces of glass or marble (6) 4 Food tin (3) 5 Location of Mount Everest (5) 6 — Hamilton, F1 driver (5) 7 Part of a tennis match (3) 8 Greenish-blue colour (4) 9 Single, solo (4) 10 Hard black wood (5)

There’s one T-shirt you like, and the shop doesn’t have your size!

Why is the one colour you need always the one you’ve run out of?

Test Murphy’s Law at home
Want to do your own Murphy’s Law experiment? Check with your parents because it could get messy! All you’ll need is a piece of toast. The best known example of Murphy’s Law states that whenever you drop a piece of toast, it always falls buttered-side down. So knock your piece of toast off the breakfast table and see what happens. If it falls buttered-side down, you have demonstrated Murphy’s Law. If it doesn’t, then you have obviously had some bad luck and your experiment has gone wrong . . . so you have still proved Murphy’s Law!



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You’ll find Books for Schools tokens in The Times and The Sunday Times every day throughout the year. Cut them out and give them to your local school. They will exchange them for superb free books. For more information, and to find your nearest participating school, visit


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