Laws of Experiment
First Law: If anything can go wrong with an
experiment, it will.
Second Law: Everything goes wrong at the same time.
Third Law: Things left alone can only go from bad to worse.
Fourth Law: Experiments must be reproducible; they should fall in
exactly the same way every time.
Fifth Law: Build no mechanism simply if a way can be
found to make it complex and wonderful.
Sixth Law: No matter how an experiment or test proceeds,
someone will believe it happened according to his pet theory.
Corollary One: No matter what the results are,
someone will misinterpret them.
Corollary Two: No matter what results are
anticipated, someone will be willing to fake them.
Laws of Mathematics
First Law: In any collection of data, the figures that are obviously correct,
beyond all need of checking, contain the errors.
Corollary One: No one when you ask for help
will see the errors.
Corollary Two: Everyone who stops by with
unsought advice will see the errors immediately.
Second Law: If, in any problem, you find yourself doing a transfinite amount
of work, the answer can be obtained by inspection.
Corollary: If inspection fails to yield the
desired results, judicious application of one (or more) of the methods outlined
later in the text may be in order (Von Nagle's Constant).
Law of Systems
When a system becomes completely defined and all possible avenues of inquiry
and expansion have been completely explored, an uninformed, independent, amateur
experimenter will discover something which either abolishes the system or
expands it beyond recognition.
Laws of the Universal Perversity of Matter
First Law: Any mechanical or electrical device is most likely to fail the day
after the manufacturer's guarantee expires.
Second Law: Any mechanical or electrical device with any malfunction short of
complete breakdown will function perfectly in the presence of any trained
Third Law: Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to its value.
Corollary One: If a mechanism is accidentally
dropped, it will fall in such a way that the maximum damage will occur.
Corollary Two: Two or more things fall at
right angles. (i.e. attempting to catch one or the other results in missing
In connection with the rules of experimental procedure, there have been
several developments in the field of interpretation of experimental data, which
deserve mention. The items are loosely grouped, in mathematics, under the
classification of constant variables, or, as some workers prefer, variable
constants. Only three of the more fundamental methods are included herein.
Von Nagle's Constant2
Von Nagle's Constant is characterized as changing the universe to fit the
X' = Kf + X Where: X = result obtained
X' = desired result
Kf = von Nagle's Constant
The Beugeurre Factor is characterized as changing the equation to fit the
X' = KbX Where: X = result obtained
X' = desired result
Kb = Beugeurre Factor
Rules of Experimental Procedure
Rule 1: A detailed, comprehensive record of data is useful; it indicates that
you have been busy.
Rule 2: To study a subject, first understand it thoroughly.
Rule 3: Draw your curves, and then plot your data.
Rule 4: In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
Rule 5: Do not believe in luck; rely on it.
Rule 6: When writing a report always leave room to add an explanation as to
why the results do not work out. (This is also known as the Rule of the Way
Law of the Lost Inch
In designing any type of construction, no overall dimension can be totaled
correctly after 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
Corollary One: Under the same conditions, if
any minor dimensions are given to sixteenths of an inch, they cannot be totaled
Corollary Two: The correct total will become
self-evident at 8:15 a.m. on Monday.
Laws of Revision
First Law: Information necessitating a change in design will be conveyed to
the designer after, and only after, the plans are complete. (Often referred to
as the "Now They Tell Us" Law).
Corollary: In simple cases where it is a
matter of choosing between one obvious right way versus one obvious wrong way,
it is often wiser to choose the wrong way so as to expedite subsequent
Second Law: The more minor and innocuous the modification appears to be, the
further its influence will extend and the more plans will have to be re-drawn.
Third Law: If, when completion of the design is imminent, field dimensions
are supplied as they are, instead of as they were meant to be, it is always
simpler to start over.
Fourth Law: It is usually impractical to worry beforehand about interference
between parts to be mated; if there is none, someone will supply some for you
(i.e. first, second and third laws above).
The Diddle Coefficient is characterized as changing things so that the
equation and the universe appear to fit; without actually requiring any change
X' =KdX2 Where: X = result obtained
X' = desired result
Kd = Diddle Coefficient
Combinations of the Above Quantities
For extremely difficult cases, or when maximum correlation between the
equation and the universe is required, optimum results will be obtained by
combining the Finagle Constant, Beugeurre Factor, and Diddle Coefficient in the
X' = (Kf + KbX + KdX2)/3 Where
all quantities are as previously defined.
1 The main body of these laws was formulated during the time Erich von Nagle
was trying to prove his fundamental discovery that "...if a string has one
end, then it must have at least one more." Although he was unsuccessful in
his proof because, at that time, the tables of elliptic integrals had not been
sufficiently developed, these laws stand as a lasting monument to his work.
Professor von Nagle moved to Ireland, here his associates misunderstood the
pronunciation of his name, hence, the misnomer, "Finagle's Law".
2 The von Nagle Constant is normally known as the "Finagle"
Constant, as a result of the misunderstanding mentioned in Note 1. An example of
the use of the Finagle Constant is the introduction of Uranus as a planet of the
Solar System. Since Newtonian Laws did not agree with the observed universe, the
planet was introduced to make the universe fit the equations. Many years passed
before the existence of Uranus was proved by observation.
3 The Beugeurre Factor is named after Charles Beugeurre, a French professor
of mathematics. The more common designation, due to language difficulty, is
"bugger" factor. The Beugeurre Factor is typified by Einstein's work
with the basic Newtonian equations of motion and gravity, so that the equations
were adjusted to fit the observed facts of the orbit of the planet Mercury. This
work later became known as the "Theory of Relativity" (which, in its
broadest definition, is a highly complex combination of all the above, plus many
other constants. Time and space limitations make it impossible to include a
discussion of the Theory of Relativity in this compilation).
4 The Diddle Coefficient is due to Ronald Featherstonebaugh Diddle, B.S.,
Flubar College, 1928. The original account of his great discovery will be found
in his paper, "On the Significance of Random Experimental Data"
(Doctoral Thesis, University of Tasmania, 1932; also printed in the Journal of
the Association of Philosophical Engineers, Volume 12, pp. 872-879, October,
1932). The photographer's use of a "soft" lens in taking portraits of
women over thirty-five represents an excellent example of using the Diddle
Coefficient. By sufficiently blurring the results, they are made to fit the
facts in a more satisfactory manner.