John Brockman has asked his Edgy band of scientists, futurists, writers, and philosophers about “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”, like those of Newton, Moore, or Murphy. Here are the results.
The more general of such laws are the most interesting because they can enrich our understanding of diverse subject areas and can be very instructive in how they fail. I think maybe this is what Alan Alda was getting at with his First and Second Laws of Laws:
1. All laws are local.
2. A law does not know how local it is.
Here’s a few of my other favorite laws from the list, general and not:
Pimm’s First Law: No language spoken by fewer than 100,000 people survives contact with the outside world, while no language spoken by more than one million people can be eliminated by such contact.
Gopnik’s Gender Curves: The male curve is an abrupt rise followed by an equally abrupt fall. The female curve is a slow rise to an extended asymptote. The areas under the curves are roughly equal. These curves apply to all activities at all time scales (e.g. attention to TV programs, romantic love, career scientific productivity). (see the graphs)
Morgan’s Second Law: To a first approximation all appointments are canceled.
Pöppel’s Universal: We take life 3 seconds at a time. Human experience and behaviour is characterized by temporal segmentation. Successive segments or “time windows” have a duration of approx. 3 seconds.
Brand’s Pace Law: In haste, mistakes cascade. With deliberation, mistakes instruct.
Kai’s Example Dilemma: A good analogy is like a diagonal frog.
Rushkoff’s Law: A religion will increase in social value until a majority of its members actually believe in it—at which point the social damage it causes will increase exponentially as long as it is in existence.
Humphrey’s Law of the Efficacy of Prayer: In a dangerous world there will always be more people around whose prayers for their own safety have been answered than those whose prayers have not.
Minksy’s Second Law: Don’t just do something. Stand there.
Sterling’s Corollary to Clarke’s Law: Any sufficiently advanced garbage is indistinguishable from magic.
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