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While I'm on the topic of "laws"

Just after I made the previous post, I found this on Kottke:
What's Your Law?

There are a bunch of eponymous laws listed, some I recognize, some I don't. For example, there's Godwins Law (see below), which I seem to see mention on a daily basis now. Then there's Strogatz's Second Law of Doing Math (also see below), which I haven't heard of, but my bastardize corallary seems to backup my use of Google to verify Scalzi's quote :).

Godwin 's Law

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Strogatz's Second Law of Doing Math

To figure out if something is true, check it on the computer. If the machine agrees with your own calculations, you're probably right.

Unattributed Bastard Corollary of Doing Research

To figure out if something is true, check it on the Google. If the machine agrees with your own research, you're probably right.

Comments (5)

Hmmm, that unattributed bastard corollary looks like an ideal way to propagate outdated science and urban myths.


It would seem so, but since Google is "Internet Omnipotent," I've actually found that it quickly debunks a lot of misattributions, though doing so can require more time than desired. For example:

"Computer games don't affect kids, I mean if Pac Man affected us as kids,
we'd all run around in a darkened room munching pills and listening to repetitive music..." - Kristian Wilson, CEO, Nintendo Gaming Corporation, Inc, 1989.

That's an extremely apocryphal quote that you find on many a person's e-mail sig. I think when I first used Google to debunk it, the page with the correct attribution came up on the first page. Now, the quote has spread so much that it requires the addition of the term "attributed" or "apocryphally" to actually come up with the correct story on the first page, which appears to be comedian Marcus Bridgestocke,


Though I do agree with you. Perhaps a corollary to the bastard corollary should be:

Any "sufficiently lazy" Internet search can confirm anything.

This is actually more of a corollary to something Al Franken wrote in his Lies book, where he describes rules for how to get away with lying in a book. Without the book in front of me, I believe his example is that Coulter was criticizing the NYTimes's for failing to write an article about an important speech that Jesse Jackson gave comparing conservatives, fascism, and racism. As proof, in her footnotes, she listed a particularly complicated Lexis-Nexus search she did to try and find the article, which turned up nothing. Franken eliminated/altered some of the search terms and came up with the article.

As I write this post, I see that Ann Coulter still insists that the NYTimes did not report the article. She insists that the NYTimes doesn't quote the line from the speech that she does, and thus "did not report the speech." As I do not have Lexis-Nexus, I have no idea who's right on this one :).

BTW, I refuse to link to Ann Coulter, so if you want the article you're just gonna have to search for it :) ("al franken" "ann coulter" "new york times" "jesse jackson")

- Any "sufficiently lazy" Internet search can confirm anything.
I'm with you all the way on that one.
I freely admit to using Google as my extended memory and my standard reference for checking suspect statements. I haven't used "attributed" or "apocryphally" as part of searches yet, but I will. There are many times when I've searched for a list of words and included the word "hoax" since most debunkable claims have already been debunked.


Ooo, another good search term to add ("hoax"). Sometimes I also try "snopes", as most of my searches end up there anyways.

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on January 11, 2004 11:34 PM.

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