"THERE'S grim news for people who worry that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. A new mathematical formula has proved Murphy's Law really does strike at the worst possible time.
Ordinary people have long known that computers crash on deadline and cars break down in emergencies, while previous studies have shown the law, also called Sod's Law, is not a myth and toast really does fall buttered side down.
But now a panel of experts has provided the statistical rule for predicting the law of "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" - or ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10)).
After tests of the experiences of 1000 people, they have discovered "things don't just go wrong, they do so at the most annoying moment".
Now the experts commissioned by British Gas - a psychologist, a mathematician and an economist - say the formula allows people to calculate the chances of Sod's Law striking, and even try to beat bad luck.
Project psychologist Dr David Lewis said: "The lesson from this is that, to cut the seemingly unbeatable Murphy's Law gremlins down to size, you need to change one of the elements in the equation.
"So, if you haven't got the skill to do something important, leave it alone. If something is urgent or complex, find a simple way to do it. If something going wrong will particularly aggravate you, make certain you know how to do it."
But he added a note of caution: "There is, of course, a Sod's Law factor to the equation. If you judge your ratings wrongly, you might become too optimistic - and calamity will strike."
In the calculation, five factors have to be assessed: urgency (U), complexity (C), importance (I), skill (S) and frequency (F), and each given a score between one and nine. A sixth, aggravation (A), was set at 0.7 by the experts after their poll.
Top of the most likely - and most annoying - events was spilling something down yourself before a date and the hot water heater breaking down in cold weather, followed by rush hour being worse when you're already late."