Murphy’s Law

Application of the engineering arts

Devastation from the structural failure of a 2.3 million gallon maple syrup tank in Boston in
Devastation from the structural failure of a poorly constructed 2.3 million gallon maple syrup tank in Boston in 1919 that killed 21 people. A rapid ambient temperature increase—Murphy’s Law in action—led to tank over-pressurization and rupture. (Public domain)

Engineering is manipulating matter and energy to achieve the desired outcome. The “art” of engineering is undertaken through scientific knowledge and mathematics tempered by experience and intuition. Experienced engineers counter Murphy’s Law by applying successful engineering principles and practices—which embody lessons-learned from previous encounters with Murphy’s gremlins—to the design of new products and services.

When opening a new frontier—especially during the period of time when the industrial mastery of operations in the new frontier is still being established—engineers look for existing comparable efforts to identify useful engineering principles and practices to adapt and apply to the new operations. For opening the space frontier, in addition to the lessons-learned from past and on-going space efforts, aircraft and submarine engineering principles and practices may be expected to be used. As discussed in the later essay on Designing for the Space Environment, both have rich engineering principles and practices that provide safe and routine human operations in dangerous operational environments.