ALPHA v0.3

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Finagle'S Law

Topic: science


FINAGLE'S CREED: Science is Truth - don't be misled by facts.

FINAGLE'S MOTTO: Smile - tomorrow it will be worse.


(The first four laws are the only ones dignified by number. Note the beauty and simplicity of the First Law. Also, note that the three remaining laws refer to men's reactions to Nature - not to Nature itself).

FIRST LAW: If anything can go wrong with an experiment, it will.

SECOND LAW: No matter what result is anticipated, there is always someone willing to fake it.

THIRD LAW: No matter what the result, there is always someone eager to misinterpret it.

FOURTH LAW: No matter what occurs, there is always someone who believed it happened according to his pet theory.

THE LAW OF THE TOO-SOLID GOOF: In any collection of data, the figure that is most-obviously correct - beyond all need of checking - is the mistake.

COROLLARY I: No one whom you ask for help will see it either.

COROLLARY II: Everyone who stops by with unsought advice will see it immediately.


The remaining rules outline the human problems that follow from the above. To some extent, they represent man's reaction to Nature and, even more aptly, man's reaction to man.

LAWS OF REVISION (Often lumped into the Now They Tell Us! Law)

FIRST LAW: Information necessitating a change in design will be conveyed to the designer after - and only after - the plans are complete.

COROLLARY I: In simple cases, where one obvious right way is opposed to one obvious wrong way, it is often wiser to choose the wrong way right off. This is one step ahead of choosing the right way, which turns out to be a wrong way, which has to become a right way.

SECOND LAW: The more innocuous the revision appears to be at first, the further its influence will extend and more plans will have to be redrawn.

THIRD LAW: If, when the completion of a design is imminent, field dimensions are finally supplied as they actually are - instead of as they were meant to be - it is always simpler to start all over.

FOURTH LAW: Even if it is impossible to assemble a part incorrectly, still a way will be found to do it wrong.

COROLLARY I: It is usually impractical to worry beforehand about interferences - if you have none, someone will make one for you.

THE LAW OF THE LOST INCH: In designing any type of construction, no over-all dimension can be totalled correctly after 4 P.M. Friday.

COROLLARY I: Under the same conditions, if any minor dimensions are given to 1/16 of an inch, they cannot be totalled at all.

COROLLARY II: The correct total will be self-evident at 9:01 Monday morning.

A further series of rules - or really advice to experimenters - has been formulated. they are a natural consequence of the first four laws reduced to day-to-day practice.

1. Experiments must be reproducible - they should all fail in the same way.

2. First draw your curves - then plot the readings.

3. Experience is directly proportional to equipment ruined.

4. A record of data is useful - it indicates you've been working.

5. To study a subject best, understand it thoroughly before you start.

6. In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.

7. Do not believe in miracles - rely on them.

8. Always leave room to add an explanation when it doesn't work. (This open door policy is also known as the Rule of the Way Out.)

9. Deliveries that normally take one day will take five when you are waiting.

10. When adjusting (or drawing or computing, etc.) remember that the eye of the chief inspector (engineer, draftsman, etc.) is more accurate than the finest instrument.

11. After adding two weeks to a schedule for unexpected delays, add another two weeks for the unexpected delays.

12. In any problem, if you find yourself doing an unending amount of work, the answer may be obtained by inspection.

ALPHA v0.3