- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology
Murphy's Law Disasters and Historical Events That Went Wrong
The Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion Shocked the Country
Murphy's Law: "If Something Can Go Wrong, It Will"
We trip and fall, we have accidents, get stuck in traffic delays, flub speeches, get flat tires, and spill coffee on our brand new suits. We anticipate the worst case scenarios because we expect "Murphy" to show up uninvited.
Murphy's Law has been a part of our recorded history as early as the 1800s, as far as we know. But the concept of "things going wrong" had to have been a part of our existence since the beginning of time.
What is "Murphy's Law?"
According to history, the term was coined inadvertently in the late 1940s when a Captain Murphy of the US Air Force made a statement about a technician making an error that could cause a problem with the manufacturing and operation of aircraft.
This statement later went on to be applied to most things having to do with engineering, mechanics, and aviation science, accompanied by the pessimistic thinking that, "If there's a way to do something wrong, it will be."
Your Experience with Murphy's Law
How did your experience with "something going wrong" leave you feeling?
Murphy's Law: A Part of Life
The origins of the term "Murphy's Law" have been rife with controversy and contradiction for years, due to the disagreements and numerous reports about who said what and when. Regardless of its exact origins, the phenomenon of Murphy's Law is something to which we have all come to relate and experience from time to time.
We have witnessed Murphy's Law collectively on the television, at the scene or site of an event, or as individuals in our personal lives. Whether it's caused by the laws of science, pessimistic attitudes, poor planning, fate, hastiness, karma, the wrath of God, or just plain old bad luck, Murphy's Law happens to all of us in some measure.
"If anything just cannot go wrong, it will anyway."
"Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."
"Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse."
"If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong."— Murphy's Laws Site
Events in History: Popular Culture Plagued by Murphy's Law
The following events demonstrate the true meaning of Murphy's Law, precisely because they began with so much promise, build up, and anticipation of successful completion. But as the familiar adage says, "If something can go wrong, it will go wrong." Some are significant historical events while others are pop culture occurrences which left lasting iconic impressions as witnessed through national and international media.
A few made us laugh and some made us cry, as we gasped in disbelief, asking ourselves, "What just happened?" Whatever the effect these events had on our psyches, the outcomes were far from what we expected, thanks to Murphy's Law.
Ten Events Impacted by Murphy's Law
1. The Obama Healthcare Website Launch Debacle
On October 1, 2013, the Obama Administration launched its highly anticipated website that would make history, overhauling the American healthcare system. It was touted as giving unprecedented access to affordable healthcare and fair medical insurance premiums and benefits plans to all Americans who wanted it.
Unfortunately, on that infamous day, no one could properly access or successfully navigate through the website.
It has gone down in history as one of, if not the most embarrassing project put out by any presidential administration. The debacle left the President and his Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, scrambling to fix a problem that grew within the ensuing weeks, way beyond anyone's imagination, kudos to the power of Murphy's Law.
2. Facebook Stock Shares Sales / IPO Disaster
Facebook held its IPO (initial public offering) on May 18, 2012. It was dubbed as the biggest event in social media technology and internet history. Mark Zuckerberg, the company creator and CEO, was ready to sell shares after years of speculation, and thought he had waited long enough to launch the selling of shares at the perfect time.
Somewhere along the way, Zuckerberg decided to sell more than he had originally planned, which turned out not to be a good idea.
Technical glitches on trading day also seemed not to bode well for the company. Although trading went well initially, making Zuckerberg's stock worth $19 billion, the plunge in share value over subsequent days created one of the biggest fiascoes in business history, reverberating throughout the technology industry.
Lawsuits against the company are currently pending. This classic blunder demonstrates Murphy's Law operating at one of its finest moments in history.
3. The Presidential Election of 2000 - The Recount
If you were old enough to vote for the first time in the presidential election of 2000, you will definitely remember how the events surrounding the election defined the importance of every vote.
Some may argue that Murphy's Law had nothing to do with this circus of historic proportions, placing blame on poor reporting by news networks and inept ballot-counting practices in the state of Florida.
The Democrats thought Al Gore won the presidency, as was erroneously reported by network broadcasters, while the Republicans held on to faith that George W. Bush would be the next president.
Over several days, voting ballots in Florida were recounted by hand, one by one, to confirm that George W. Bush had indeed been elected the 43rd President of the United States.
4. Flubbed Speeches by Politicians
There's nothing funnier than to see a polished politician lose his composure by making an incorrect or blundered statement in public.
No one does it better than our beloved 43rd President, George W.The video to the right speaks for itself.
Even President Obama has been known to make a few blunders himself. His are particularly entertaining because he is known to be the smooth, articulate, urbane president.
Of course, most of the speeches and appearances made by politicians are planned, or at least rehearsed and formatted for them to follow. So when they trip over themselves, we have to chalk it up to Murphy's Law and have a good laugh.
Which politician made the funniest blunders in public?
5. Inclement Weather - Diana Ross's Central Park Concert
Have you ever gotten tickets to attend the concert of a lifetime? Slated to perform is your favorite band or solo artist, making a debut in your hometown, only to find that the weather forecast threatens the event.
Inclement weather probably ranks at the top of Murphy's Law spoilers. On July 21, 1983, Diana Ross had such a concert in Central Park for all of her New York City fans. Murphy's Law worked overtime on that day, delivering torrential rains and high winds to interrupt the show. But Miss Ross stayed out for as long as she could to perform before she was forced to postpone the concert . . . for the very next day, like a true diva.
6. Advertising and Product Blunders - "The New Coke"
During the soft drink battle for taste in the late 1980s, The Coca-Cola Company decided to change the recipe of its #1 cola soft drink. Why? Who knows, but it turned out to be the worst disaster in new product campaign history.
The New Coke did not sell and was pulled within a few weeks after backlash was received from Coke fans who wanted the tried and true taste of the original Coke. They got it back with a new name - Classic Coke.
Murphy's Law Disasters and Losses
The last four events are grouped together due to the tragic nature and loss of life that followed. These much anticipated occasions were meant to be joyous, historical events of memorable achievement. Instead, Murphy's Law seemed to rear its ugly head at the wrong time.
These events shockingly did not go as planned, leaving us with horrible memories of sudden death, disaster, and unspeakable loss.
7. The Challenger Explosion - On the morning of January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in the air when a booster engine failed. The horrific event shocked viewers as they watched the event on live television. The disaster killed the crew of seven instantly, only 73 seconds into the launch.
8. The Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster - On February 1, 2003, the Columbia disaster stunned the members of NASA as the Space Shuttle, hailed as the first to enter space, broke apart in flames as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere after its mission. It had successfully carried many astronauts since 1981. The crew of seven was killed and never to be forgotten.
The Challenger Crew
The Space Shuttle Columbia
9. The Hindenburg Crash - The LZ 129 Hindenburg was a German passenger airship, carrying 36 passengers and a crew of 61. On May 6, 1937, the massive airship caught fire as it attempted to land at a naval air station dock in Lakehurst, New Jersey. It went down in flames, becoming the first sensational disaster ever witnessed, with unprecedented news coverage at that time. A total of 36 people were killed.
10. The Sinking of the Titanic - Four days into her maiden voyage, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg, causing it to sink on April 15, 1912, killing 1500 of the estimated 2,224 people on board. The luxury liner incident was met with much controversy and investigation that led to changes in maritime regulations and a host of feature films, including the wildly successful "Titanic," released in 1997 under the direction of James Cameron.
Reconciling Murphy's Law
Murphy's Law is an expectation we've come to live with as we accept the disappointments or the humor that can follow mishaps. We have learned to embrace and adjust to happenstances that come our way fortuitously, as we attempt to plan for the best outcomes.
We offer to each other words of reason and comfort to amend our attitudes about our lack of control over what happens. For example, we hear statements like:
- Everything happens for a reason
- It will all work out for the best
- God has a different plan
- It wasn't meant to be
- Better luck next time
- "Stuff" happens
In our acceptance of Murphy's Law as a part of a complete universe, we can only hope for the best, plan for the worse, and cherish every experience along the way as a divine gift or opportunity for growth.
© 2014 Janis Leslie Evans