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What is the Metafilter Law?
January 2, 2004 12:20 PM   Subscribe

WHAT'S YOUR LAW? Every year the editors of Edge ask a question.
posted by john (50 comments total)

 
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. By this account named "doing it" not after. (a great past thread too, can't find in search)
posted by thomcatspike at 12:32 PM on January 2, 2004


Either they've never heard of Godwin's law or they misspelled it "Goodwin." How smart can they be?
posted by jfuller at 1:23 PM on January 2, 2004


Gardner's First Law: Don't ask how smart someone is; ask in what ways is he or she smart.
posted by xiffix at 1:45 PM on January 2, 2004


ZMT's Law: Everyone always acts in their own (perceived) self-interest.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:57 PM on January 2, 2004


Never trust a man who doesn't like Johnny Cash.
posted by keswick at 1:57 PM on January 2, 2004


this is very good--thanks!

I like these three alot--Mirsky's law: Imagination precedes what we call reality. I would propose this as a law of daily life and suspect that it plays a large part in our evolution.
and
Verena's Law of Sane Reasoning: Hone your Hunches, Jump, then backtrack to blaze a reliable trail to your Conclusion.
and Dyson's Law: Do ask; don't lie.
posted by amberglow at 2:04 PM on January 2, 2004


From "The Official Rules":

Cole's Law: Thinly sliced cabbage.
posted by Vidiot at 2:08 PM on January 2, 2004 [1 favorite]


Another couple of my favorites:

Anthony's Law of Force: Don't force it, get a larger hammer.

I'm not sure whose these are, but:
It is always better to ask forgiveness than permission.

When in doubt, walk fast, mumble, and look worried.

And of course there's the Peter Principle...
posted by Vidiot at 2:09 PM on January 2, 2004


Greenfield's observation, FWIW: Rules produce flows.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:15 PM on January 2, 2004


Rules produce flows.
flows or flaws?
posted by thomcatspike at 2:22 PM on January 2, 2004


Either they've never heard of Godwin's law or they misspelled it "Goodwin." How smart can they be?

Yes, because smart people never make typos or spelling mistakes, and people that make spelling errors don't have a thing to say that's worth listening to :/
posted by nthdegx at 2:30 PM on January 2, 2004


Come on now, three Dyson's Laws on one page, from 3 different Dysons who are all related? It calls for first names at the least.
posted by syscom at 2:32 PM on January 2, 2004


Rush's Rules:

1. Things are not as you have been led to believe they are; if you want to see, you must look, and look, and look.
2. The vast majority of human-created problems result from an inadequate understanding of cause-and-effect.
3. Patterns reveal truths; Truth transcends patterns.
4. Ignorance is vulnerability.
5. Context is the Philosopher's Stone.
6. There can be no accountability without responsibility...and vice versa.
7. It is illogical to abandon an hypothesis that has been but poorly tested.
8. Eclecticism is the ultimate survival strategy.
9. No matter how many times you say a thing, it grows no more (or less) true than it was at the first.
10. There is no greater insult to self or other than insincerity.
11. The charge of idealism is often made by those too lazy or too selfish to do things right.
12. Never trust one selling both the sickness and the cure.
posted by rushmc at 2:38 PM on January 2, 2004


In Lake Toba, Sumatra, the kids sang a song that translates to "High, higher-jumping squirrel/ One day will be falling down." This gives me a strange hope.

Gardner's first law is similar to a proverb that says it is better to resourceful than smart. Something about fish... it's a Thai proverb; if anyone knows it, please post.

Also, gratitude is every breath.
posted by squirrel at 2:43 PM on January 2, 2004


Etcoff's Law

Be wary of scientific dualisms.

Brain vs Mind
Mind vs Body
Emotion vs Reason
Nature vs Nurture
Us vs Them

Seek unity.


Like it.
posted by nthdegx at 2:46 PM on January 2, 2004


> Gardner's First Law: Don't ask how smart someone is; ask in what ways is he
> or she smart.

-10 points, didn't read the assignment. This is an admonition, not a law. (Unless there's an enforcer who hasn't called in yet.)


> Verena's Law of Sane Reasoning: Hone your Hunches, Jump, then backtrack to
> blaze a reliable trail to your Conclusion

Metafilter: Conclusions first, reasons later.
posted by jfuller at 3:01 PM on January 2, 2004


Fishes' Law: Life is inevitable, tenacious, and wonderous.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:12 PM on January 2, 2004


rushmc,

As context changes, so does truth, as rule 5 implies. Yet your rule 9 contradicts.
posted by squirrel at 3:33 PM on January 2, 2004


All broad sweeping generalizations are false. Including this one.
posted by Vidiot at 4:22 PM on January 2, 2004


A good analogy is like a diagonal frog.
posted by jacobsee at 4:34 PM on January 2, 2004


Never drink on a T-day. Unless there are extenuating circumstances.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:18 PM on January 2, 2004


do what thou whilst! that shall be the hole of the law :D
posted by kliuless at 7:31 PM on January 2, 2004



1. If it doesnt work, take it apart and put it back together
2. Every rule has exceptions. The exceptions are where the interesting things happen.
3. A lot of unhappiness is caused by nothing more than a bad choice of peer group.
4. Everyone is making it up as they go along, not just you.
Corollary to #4: On any controversial issue you can dig up experts, equally learned, to argue either side.
5. The truth is almost always a compromise between the extremes.
Corollary to #5: Nobody likes a compromise.
6. The people who win arguments are those that primarily, are skilled at winning arguments, and only secondarily, have truth on their side.
posted by vacapinta at 7:56 PM on January 2, 2004


hey reading thru them i think i liked alan alda's an rupert sheldrake's best (the vision thing :)

also it's fun comparing them!

Carlo Rovelli: Time Does Not Exist
Smolin's Third Law: Time does exist.

maybe maddox had kurzweil in mind!?

men are like this, women are like this! huh? :D

"Voters vote their identities, not their self-interest." hey! that sounds familiar :D "Americans vote for policies that reflect their social aspirations, rather than their social reality."

oh and this reminded me of this :D
posted by kliuless at 8:07 PM on January 2, 2004


1. If you are undecided as to whether you should have another drink - don't have another drink.
2. The most well-liked person at the party is the one everyone envies and thus is, actually, the least-liked.
3. A confident (and attractive) person thinks that you and them are better than everyone else. An over-confident person is someone who thinks they are better than you.
4. What people most fear or despise in others is a good indicator of what they most dislike about themselves.
5. The most interesting people out there are also the most solitary and thus also the hardest to get to know.
posted by vacapinta at 8:10 PM on January 2, 2004


1. Understanding cultural bias is essential in constructing maxims that people will believe in.
2. Everything is necessary in hindsight.
3. Anything we can completely understand isn't worth the time it takes to understand it.
4. If time is an illusion, it is at least an interesting illusion.
5. If you make your coffee with a French press, avoid taking that last sip.
posted by vacapinta at 8:25 PM on January 2, 2004


amen to #5, vaca : > (and you're on a roll--keep it up!)
posted by amberglow at 8:28 PM on January 2, 2004


DA's First Law of Ordering Pizza for Large Groups: There are more people than you think who don't like mushrooms.

DA's Second Law of Ordering Pizza for Large Groups: After you take DA's First Law into account, there are still more people than you think who don't like mushrooms.

(At first, these may seem to bear some resemblance to Hofstadter's Law; but unlike Hofstadter's Law, these are not infinitely recursive. Once you take DA's First and Second Laws into account, you'll order about the right number of pizzas with mushrooms.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:40 PM on January 2, 2004


Don't forget Rumsfeld's Rules, which he wrote in 1974 while serving in the Ford White House. Makes for interesting reading.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:55 PM on January 2, 2004


That cargo cult thing is great, kliuless.

I've been wondering who a lot of these remind me of, and it finally came to me: Steven Wright : >
It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it.
posted by amberglow at 9:05 PM on January 2, 2004


I've always appreciated the anonymous proverb:
"A stopped clock is right twice a day",
to which I offer Wendell's Chronological Addendum:
"And a clock running backwards twice as often..."
posted by wendell at 9:21 PM on January 2, 2004


Umm, are you trying to show off Maddox's Second Law? Maybe it really is Goodwin.


Is there any one Metafilter Law?

Wendell,

Quite a while ago I noted that (call it John's Observation):

The military reduced the amount of times their broken clocks are correct by 50%.
posted by john at 9:27 PM on January 2, 2004


As context changes, so does truth, as rule 5 implies. Yet your rule 9 contradicts.

How so? It's only the effect of stating a thing repeatedly that it denies, not the possibility of change itself.

Of course, this may contradict Schroedinger in some fashion...
posted by rushmc at 10:28 PM on January 2, 2004


Repetition technically changes the context of an occurrence, don't you suppose, rushmc? I'm partial to your rule about the determinance of context, but the "repetition doesn't change truth" rule seems to suppose that truth exists outside of human experience, as an absolute property of which humans have only distorted views.

In fact truth is generated; it is an abstract function of human inter-relationship. Anecdotaly, you're right: repeating an untruth doesn't seem to make it more true. Yet, repetition has a role in creating truth, or the migration of things between the categories of untrue and true.
posted by squirrel at 11:39 PM on January 2, 2004


Where's languagehat?
posted by squirrel at 11:39 PM on January 2, 2004


Great post - made for fun reading. I also enjoyed some of the questions posed in prior years. Thanks, john!
posted by madamjujujive at 12:01 AM on January 3, 2004


1. Anything anyone says can be picked apart. Anything.
Lemma: Any statement no matter how obvious, has an equally valid objection.
2. The gist of human nature is found in the gap between what people say and how they behave.
Examples: 'I hate crowds','When I'm rich, I'll give most of my money away'
3. The number of simple truths exceeds the number of simple words needed to express them.
4. Human truths are like funny jokes: Trying to comprehend them only makes them more incomprehensible.
5. The person you are waiting for at the street corner/coffeeshop always arrives just as you get distracted by something else.

(sorry amber, i took a coffee break ;)
posted by vacapinta at 12:19 AM on January 3, 2004


Kindall's law of social distinction: Arrogance is when you think you're the shit, and you're not. Confidence is when you think you're the shit, and you are.

Kindall's law of platform equivalence: All computers suck equally. They just divide up the suckiness in different ways.
posted by kindall at 3:25 AM on January 3, 2004


Repetition technically changes the context of an occurrence

Interesting thoughts, squirrel, though I think you're trying to extend the parameters of the rule beyond what was intended.

Yet, repetition has a role in creating truth, or the migration of things between the categories of untrue and true.

Perhaps in some types of considerations, but how would this apply if I told you I was a 5'2" 89-year-old black woman? The accuracy of this claim would not be affected by the number of times I made it.
posted by rushmc at 8:34 AM on January 3, 2004


Yogi Berra - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.
posted by SPrintF at 8:51 AM on January 3, 2004


All of these little aphoristic laws are at least one of:
- tautological
- obvious
- ill-defined and meaningless
- wrong.

Only those that are also funny are worth keeping.
posted by sfenders at 9:41 AM on January 3, 2004


Only those that are also funny are worth keeping.
That's a pretty good law in itself, sfenders
posted by amberglow at 9:59 AM on January 3, 2004


Good point, sfenders. For example:
Bunnell's First Law of Retrievability

Everything is retrievable.

Bunnell's Second Law of Retrievability

Everything is stored somewhere. The secret to retrieving things is simply finding out where they are stored.
Apparently Bunnell has managed to overcome that pesky little Second Law of Thermodynamics.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:46 AM on January 3, 2004


Thanks for the thoughtful replies, rushmc. I hope you take these questions in a playful spirit. I don't mean to hound you. Your rules are interesting.

Your example of being an 87 year-old black woman is anecdotally true, because I'm assuming you mean to be saying it in real-time for about 30 seconds. That's a context: our shared assumption of that time frame. In that context, the untruth of your statement wouldn't change.

But in another context, where repetition implies infinite repetition, the untruth of the statement would not be universal.

Given that numbers and genders are constructs, they rely on assumptions that in some contexts would not be assumed. Endless repetition of anything creates truths and untruths. The true-false binary is really only a mathematical assignment anyway, without quality.
posted by squirrel at 12:40 PM on January 3, 2004


I hope you take these questions in a playful spirit.

Of course.

But in another context, where repetition implies infinite repetition, the untruth of the statement would not be universal.

Well, in the case of the age example ("89"), assuming I live that long, I can see how repeating it sufficiently will eventually cause me to cross into a "true" state (and then back out again). With other examples, it is less clear that this would occur. I will take your points under advisement, however; they may require the formulation of a new rule. :)
posted by rushmc at 5:11 PM on January 3, 2004


My law, that I figured out in numerous singles-only dating-related social gatherings, but which appiles in many other areas of life:

To some extent, everyone is nervous in social situations. The person who realizes (and exploits) this has an enormous advantage, even though he, himself, is nervous, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:58 AM on January 5, 2004


John's Law

All content is questionable.
posted by john at 10:45 AM on January 5, 2004


Two to live by:

Brand's Pace Law
In haste, mistakes cascade. With deliberation, mistakes instruct.

Dawkins's Law of Adversarial Debate
When two incompatible beliefs are advocated with equal intensity, the truth does not lie half way between them.
posted by Holden at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2004


I really like Brand's Pace Law, Holden. Very Buddhist.

Dawkin's Law raises a question: is the truth a fixed location that one can measure his distance from? I guess the question is rhetorical, because I'm biased toward a notion of truth as a joint construct that requires interaction. I understand truth as an ongoing group creation, not as a fixed property. Fixed to what, the number seven?

So while Dawkin's Law frees us from the common misconception that there is a relationship between how you argue and what you're arguing about, it neglects to illustrate the nature of the truth it references.

Goldknuckle's Resolve: Brevity is the soul of wit. (By way of citation, he gestures vaguely toward Shakespeare.)
posted by squirrel at 6:08 PM on January 5, 2004


Gropnik's laws are remarkably sexist and effectively useless. Even meant as humor, they're without interest or merit.
posted by jkilg at 12:39 AM on January 6, 2004


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