Fitzpatrick’s First Law

John Brockman, president of Edge Foundation, has posed his annual question to his collection of the digerati:

There is some bit of wisdom, some rule of nature, some law-like pattern, either grand or small, that you’ve noticed in the universe that might as well be named after you. Gordon Moore has one; Johannes Kepler and Michael Faraday, too. So does Murphy.

Since you are so bright, you probably have at least two you can articulate. Send me two laws based on your empirical work and observations you would not mind having tagged with your name. Stick to science and to those scientific areas where you have expertise. Avoid flippancy. Remember, your name will be attached to your law.

The results are fascinating. Mathematician Keith Devlin’s laws, for instance:

Devlin’s First Law

Buyer beware: in the hands of a charlatan, mathematics can be used to make a vacuous argument look impressive.

Devlin’s Second Law

So can PowerPoint.

So, in the spirit of the exercise:

Fitzpatrick’s First Law

The louder the claims of a cultural form’s “death,” the less likely such claims are to be true.

Now your turn: what’s your law? [Via Kottke.]


  1. Well, that’s easy.

    Miscellany is the largest category.

    (but someone – fictional – already owns that law, though I imagine there are few enough geeks who would know where I took it from)

  2. Fitzpatrick’s law can be generalized into a pronciple of uncorrelative triggers for discursive embroidery. Here applied to three cases:

    The death of the dying is not the death of the dead.

    Size of miscellany does not necessarily relate to number of categories it may contain.

    Inverse proportionality is subject to limits when contemplating relations of appearance and distance.

  3. Tipper’s Law of Salad

    It is possible to correctly predict how much salad one’s dinner guests to presume, or to make a delicious dessert, but not both.

    Tipper’s Law of Afterwords

    The length in words of the “Author’s Note” or “Acknowledgements” at the back of the book is inversely proportional to the interest and complexity of the ideas in the actual text.

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