Monday, October 25, 2004

Murphy was...

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
-- Murphy the Magnificent

Sometimes Murphy's Law gives a pessimistic prediction. Sometimes it gives a realistic prediction. But Murphy was an optimist seems an awfully bleak statement, doesn't it?

The problem, though, is sometimes it's much better when things go wrong early. It's like losing your keys and avoiding a car accident. As a refinement of Murphy's Law, then, for the truly morose, I offer the following Postulate of Pessimism -- which I don't buy, but which nevertheless amuses me at the moment:

Any sequence of events which can go wrong or right will occur so as to reach the most catastrophic ultimate outcome.

In truth, the universe is probably gentler than the Postulate of Pessimism would allow (since the duration of the sequence of events is unspecified, though, said postulate would be difficult to disprove). Which reminds me of what Pete Stewart wrote in his Afternotes on Numerical Analysis regarding the convergence of Newton's method:

In the long run, the iterates will arrive near a zero, after which quadratic convergence will set in. But, as we have had occasion to observe, in the long run we are all dead.