Friday, February 22, 2008

\sout{Murphy's} Sod's Laws and Mathematics!

EDIT: Have added the rest if anyone else couldn't access the website.

I'm being a sod and writing Sod's Law, but if you're comfortable with Murphy's Law then so be it. Steve posted this amusing link in the comments to my previous post: Murphy's Laws and Mathematics, however that doesn't seem to work. Never mind though, where there's a Steve there's a solution (but don't tell that to Murphy!) Below are Murphy's laws of Mathematics; feel free to post some of your own.

    Murphy's law and its corollaries are familiar to everyone who studies mathematics.
  • Murphy's Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.
  • Corollary 1: At the worst possible time
  • Corollary 2: Causing the most damage
    Here are some ways in which Murphy's law applies to mathematics:
  1. The harder you study, the farther behind you get.
  2. Every problem is harder than it looks and takes longer than you expected.
  3. When you solve a problem, it always helps to know the answer.
  4. Any expression can be made equal to any other expression if you juggle it enough.
  5. Knowing mathematics and teaching mathematics are not equivalent.
  6. Teaching ability is inversely proportional to the number of papers published.
  7. Proofs don't convince anybody of anything.
  8. An ounce of example is worth a pound of theory.
  9. What is "obvious" to everyone else won't be "obvious" to you.
  10. Notes you understood perfectly in class transform themselves into hieroglyphics at home.
  11. Textbooks are written for those who already know the subject.
  12. Any simple idea will be expressed in incomprehensible terms.
  13. The answers you need aren't in the back of the book.
  14. No matter how much you study for exams, it will never be enough.
  15. The problems you can work are never put on the exam.
  16. The problems you are certain won't be on the test will be.
  17. The answer to the problem you couldn't work on the exam will become obvious after you hand in your paper.

I just rattled them past a few people sitting nearby and boy did we all grumble in complaint about the final four!! The second to last one is something which happened to me in my complex analysis exam--I was dead sure that a question wouldn't be on this years paper because it was on last years, and the opposite happened. However, I should have known better I suppose.

My grumblings about the book not having the answers at the back no longer seem important! If only I had known about this then. It's funny (as a mathematician) how painfully true the first two are! I wonder when they'll start writing text books for those who don't understand the subject?

"Once solved, no matter how hard the problem was, it becomes 'trivial'" is the only thing my brain can muster at the moment. You also can't disguise your wrong answers by making your writing illegible...

3 comments:

steve said...

Just realised that there are more laws at the original site (which I can get to - how odd): The complete set of 17 is:

1. The harder you study, the farther behind you get.
2. Every problem is harder than it looks and takes longer than you expected.
3. When you solve a problem, it always helps to know the answer.
4. Any expression can be made equal to any other expression if you juggle it enough.
5. Knowing mathematics and teaching mathematics are not equivalent.
6. Teaching ability is inversely proportional to the number of papers published.
7. Proofs don't convince anybody of anything.
8. An ounce of example is worth a pound of theory.
9. What is "obvious" to everyone else won't be "obvious" to you.
10. Notes you understood perfectly in class transform themselves into hieroglyphics at home.
11. Textbooks are written for those who already know the subject.
12. Any simple idea will be expressed in incomprehensible terms.
13. The answers you need aren't in the back of the book.
14. No matter how much you study for exams, it will never be enough.
15. The problems you can work are never put on the exam.
16. The problems you are certain won't be on the test will be.
17. The answer to the problem you couldn't work on the exam will become obvious after you hand in your paper.

Beans said...

Thanks Steve, I'll edit them into the post. I still can't access that site today! (I even tried it in IE6.) It can't have anything to do with Java could it now, for that's the only thing my computer keeps on bugging me about.

Beans said...

Hmmm, I think it was a problem with my ip address. I am using the University network at the moment (through vpn) and the site worked!! How bizarre.