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Wednesday, May 09, 2007


From John Brignal's highly reccomended Numberwatch

The Laws

Langmuir's Laws of bad science

1 .The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause.

2. The effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability, or many measurements are necessary because of the low level of significance of the results.

3. There are claims of great accuracy.

4. Fantastic theories contrary to experience are suggested.

5. Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up on the spur of the moment.

6. The ratio of supporters to critics rises to somewhere near 50% and then falls gradually to zero.

Parkinson's Laws

1) Work expands to fill the time available for its completion; the thing to be done swells in perceived importance and complexity in a direct ratio with the time to be spent in its completion.

2) Expenditures rise to meet income.

3) Expansion means complexity; and complexity decay.

4) The number of people in any working group tends to increase regardless of the amount of work to be done.

5) If there is a way to delay an important decision the good bureaucracy, public or private, will find it.

6) The progress of science is inversely proportional to the number of journals published.

Maier's Law

If the facts don't conform to the theory, they must be disposed of.

1) The bigger the theory, the better.

2) The experiment may be considered a success if no more than 50% of the observed measurements must be discarded to obtain a correspondence with the theory.

Hutber's Law

“Improvement” means deterioration.

Kingsley’s Law

More means worse.

The Laws of Thermodynamics for laymen

1. You cannot win
2. You cannot break even
3. You cannot get out of the game

Murphy's law

If anything can go wrong it will go wrong (but see here).

Corollary (Sod's law)

The going wrong always occurs at a time that causes maximum inconvenience.

Moore’s Law

The number of devices on a chip doubles every 18 months.

Le Chatelier-Braun Principle

If any change is imposed on a system in equilibrium, the system will change in such a way as to counteract the imposed change.

The Bureaucrat's credo

I cause change therefore I am.

The first law of toxicology

The poison is in the dose.

Gershwin's Law

It ain't necessarily so.

Simon's law

Routine drives out planning: the urgent takes priority over the important.

Law of unintended consequences

The actions of people (and especially of governments) always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. These often outweigh the intended effects.

Brignell’s Laws

The law of league tables

All measures used as the basis of a league table always improve.

Corollary 1

All other measures get worse to compensate.

Corollary 2

What you measure is what you get.

The law of targets

A level set as a target maximum becomes the de facto minimum, and vice versa.

The law of scientific consensus:

At times of high scientific controversy, the consensus is always wrong.

The law of beneficial developments:

The intensity of the scaremongering attack on any new development is proportional to the level of benefit that it endows.


Alternative therapies do not come under attack.

Third law of economic motion

For every opinion from an economist there is an equal and opposite opinion from another economist

The law of experiments

The first trial always produces a result that is bizarre and points to a great scientific breakthrough.

First corollary

The effect never reappears in any subsequent trials.

Second corollary

In fields such as epidemiology and drug testing there is only one trial.

The law of computer models

The results from computer models tend towards the desires and expectations of the modellers.


The larger the model, the closer the convergence.

The first law of journalism

Readers have short memories.

The fundamental law of trends

If you can't see it, it ain't there.

To which I would add only Pournelle's Law
Everything takes longer & costs more

UPDATE - 1 1/2 more

Brignell’s law of beneficial developments:

The intensity of the scaremongering attack on any new development is proportional to the level of benefit that it endows.


Alternative therapies do not come under attack.

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