I live by a rule of threes.

Part superstition. Part gut hunch. When a name, an idea, a concept comes in threes, I take is as a sign and take note. I stop. Ponder. Find some way to act.

Last week it was Murphy. (As in Murphy's Law.)

Over dinner, Murphy's name came up as a friend shared a story about the worst blind date in history. Later that same week, another friend shared a similarly themed ordeal, this one involving a hilarious road trip with his kids. Last line: "Of course, Murphy was in the back seat."

So today, when checking emails, a reader asks, "What's the deal with Murphy's Law?" I took it as a sign.

Murphy's Law (which states, "If anything can go wrong, it will.") is credited to one Captain Edward Murphy, an Air Force engineer working on a crash test project in 1948.

Sources credit Project MX981, designed to test a human's tolerance for g-forces (a la Chuck Yeager). The test involved a rocket sled mounted on a railroad track, for which Col. John Paul Stapp was the human guinea pig.

As is far too common in government-funded studies, the science, the tedium, the effort expended netted a zero reading, owing to the fact that someone wired the gages backwards. So while the greatest minds on the planet worked to solve the ultimate challenge in space exploration, it was a 101 wiring fluke that voided the first experiments.

Col. Stapp is said to have coined the phrase in the embarrassing press conference following the debacle. Less memorable, but just as insightful is Stapp's Ironical Paradox which states, "The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle!"

Though other versions the law exist (Sod's Law and Finagle's Law), we've been crediting Murphy since 1949.


Karlen Evins is the author of Southern to the Core: An Evins Family Cookbook and the "I Didn't Know That" series of books and columns. For more information, please visit www.karlenevins.com.