IBC Stories

International Bible College under construction
San Antonio, Texas

This is a humorous story  I wrote while a student at IBC (International Bible College, San Antonio) during the construction of the new building, pictured above was still in progress. 

However, those of you who did not attend the school will still enjoy the story. You will discover whether Murphy's Law that states: "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong," reinforced by the fact that a slice of bread always falls on the floor butter-side down, was reconciled or not with Matt. 19:26 and Rom. 8:28 which states all things are possible and that everything works together for good. Either Murphy is right or the Bible is right. They can't be both.

IBC Alumni, familiar with the personalities, pet phrases, and academic bents of the below faculty, should particularly enjoy this. (I attended 1981-1985) 
(Be sure to read the footnote for the source of some of the material I included.)

Janis Hutchinson

List of characters
Pres. David Coote
Dale Watts (teacher)
Kim Crutchfield (at the time, visiting teacher and Christian secularist)
Van Gill (teacher)
Troy Parker (teacher)
David Cook (teacher)

SCENE            Faculty lunchroom in the cafeteria

PRES. DAVID COOTE:     “I’m sure you all realize the gravity of the situation we are faced with and the far reaching implications this dilemma will have on IBC students—let alone the rest of mankind. Brother Watts, we are most anxious to have you report on the experiment you were asked to conduct in Systematic Theology yesterday.”

DALE WATTS:     “Well, Brother David, first of all I reemphasized the seriousness of this problem to my students—that Christianity’s principles are at stake and Murphy’s Law #1 which states that ‘Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong,” must be faced once and for all. Either Matt. 19:26 and Rom. 8:28 is right, which states that all things are possible and everything works together for good, or Murphy is right. It can’t be both. The seeming conflict must be reconciled and the deceptiveness of Murphy’s laws exposed! Personally, I think Murphy could possibly be the Anti-Christ.”

VAN GILL:     “You might have a very important point there, Dr. Watts.”

DALE WATTS:     “I really felt that with a class of born-again believers performing the experiment it would prove once and for all that the Christian can look forward to a positive, hope-filled life, in contrast to Murphy’s Law of everything going wrong.”

TROY PARKER:     “I know that experiments are pretty conclusive. What is the experiment that you applied to Law #1?”

DALE WATTS:     “Murphy’s Law #1 claims that the daily experience of bread always falling butter-side down, proves his law. Now we know this is a devastating statement to make about life. I mean ... how can our seniors go out and win the world and in confidence tell new believers that life can be very positive if we don’t disprove this theory? What would new believers have to look forward to?”

DAVID COOK:     “You’re right. I think it’s imperative that this theory be corrected. The results of your experiment are just the thing we need. I’ve been trying so hard to teach my General Epistles class—to wake them up to the positive side of the Gospel. Do you know that when I told them that there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel one student responded with Murphy’s Law #2 that no doubt the light was the headlamp of an oncoming train? Do you see the negative attitude Murphy is spreading?”

DALE WATTS:     “I’m sorry to say that in my Doctorate studies at Vanderbilt we didn’t study Laws #1 or #2. However, we did have a class on the negative aspects of Law #3—the one which states, ‘Do not play leap frog with a unicorn.’ As you well know, the critical scholars attack this, along with the Ten Commandments because of their negative aspect—Thou shalt not do this … thou shalt not do that, etc.”

VAN GILL: (interrupting)     “Yes … yes … What conclusion did you come up with. I don’t think Oblate plans to study that until next year.”

DALE WATTS:     “Well, it was finally concluded that Werner Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in Quantum Mechanics, which concerns the law of probability in atomic particles, applies to the Murphy Law. Because of this Law of Probability, the serious and inevitable consequences of violating this particular Murphy Law overweighed the negative aspect. Thus, abiding by that principle would prove a very positive benefit. But, again, you can see that because Law #3 about the unicorn was acknowledged as valid and inspired by these men of high intellect, it would naturally lead others to conclude that all of Murphy’s Laws are valid and inspired.”

KIM CRUTCHFIELD:     “Excuse me for interrupting, but it’s very fortunate that I decided to visit the campus at this crucial time. First of all, we cannot discount the scientific aspect of any of Murphy’s Laws. I feel that all the laws of physics harmonize with Murphy’s Laws. I mean, even with the Bible you can’t declare the Ten Commandments valid at the sacrifice of science!

“Gentlemen, we live in an enlightened world. True, we do believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that Moses in his primitive day thought the power of God opened the Red Sea. But it’s against scientific law for water to part! I’m sure we’re all mature enough to understand that, in actuality, the Lord just took advantage of a strong North wind he knew was heading that way which would naturally be effective considering the Reed Sea was only a few feet deep. God would simply not violate the laws he himself created. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

“And as far as Matt. 19:26 and Romans 8:28 goes, those involved in psychical research have proven that the power of the mind is usually what controls life’s situations; and if life throws a curve, the person’s attitude determines whether it’s Murphy’s Law in action or God’s. A realistic individual will see Murphy; the religious person will claim God; and there’s nothing wrong with this … whatever makes you feel good. Even Einstein proved that everything is relative. What I really think you should do is simply explain the human psyche to the students.”

PRES. DAVID COOTE:     “ … uh … thank you for that input, brother. Now Watts, get on with it and tell us about your experiment.”

DALE WATTS:     “Well, I had all 30 students participate with one slice of bread each. Inasmuch as I feel God prefers peanut-butter over just plain butter, we used the former. At a given signal all students tossed their slices into the air. Even if half would have fallen on the dry side and half on the peanut-butter side, I felt we would have had a good case against Murphy. But as it turned out, 29 of the slices landed peanut-butter side down on the floor—the 30th stuck to the ceiling. Some of the students even laughed … I mean, they just don’t realize the gravity of the situation!”

TROY PARKER:     “This is serious … how can we fight statistics? Nevertheless, we can’t let the students leave IBC with the least bit of doubt hanging in their minds concerning Matt. 19:26 and Romans 8:28. Brother David, what do you suggest?”

PRES. DAVID COOTE:     “I agree. And as much as I hate to admit it, daily experience seems to prove Murphy’s Law. In fact, it seems to verify itself every day on this new building. I mean, would you believe it if I told you that they put the windows in backwards again? I think if you’ll give me a little time to consult with Brother Freeborn, we can come up with an acrostic of 5 or 6 “S’s” which can help us find a solution to this dilemma.”

DAVID COOK: (jumping up)  “We’ve got to solve this now! We’ve got to convince the student body that when it comes down to where the rubber meets the road, that the scriptures will take precedence over Murphy’s Laws!”

PRES. DAVID COOTE:     “Now, now, Brother Cook. I believe that we should take this one logical step at a time. The first thing that should be approached and decided upon is whether Murphy’s Law can be backed up by the law of physics. If it can’t, then we’re home free. What we need is someone with keen insight into Einstein’s theory of relativity, who can handle the kind of pressure this kind of problem-solving will take.” (long pause)  I think you’ll all agree, there’s only ONE person who qualifies …”
(unanimous acknowledgement is made by all)

TROY PARKER:     “Well, I’m sure we all have to admit that her background has brought her a great deal of insight into these kinds of problems.”

DALE WATTS:     “Well, I know this … only recently she figured within an amazing degree of accuracy how many angels could stand on the head of a pin.”

(voices become excited; then silence once again)

VAN GILL:            “I think we all know what must be done …”


Thus, at 9:00 a.m. the very next morning, I was called in.

After sizing up the situation I realized that the reputation of IBC was at stake. Of course, how could students go out into the world and teach people about the benefits of the Christian life if influenced by Murphy’s Law that declares the opposite? Perhaps my expertise could indeed prove to be of value.

I knew there had to be an answer, although looking at the statistics in Brother Watt’s experiment and at the unequal odds of what was happening in the lives of students; not to mention President Coote's problems with the new building, I knew it would be tough. But I agreed to take on the case.

I had utmost faith in the scriptures. I also knew that as far as objectivity goes, I was the one best suited for the task. But at the same time, I realized that if the law of physics ended up confirming Murphy’s Law, we were in deep water.

Call it inspiration or revelation, or what you will, but deep down I felt that somehow Brother Watt’s class experiment contained some hidden element which would explain the seeming appearance of failure and somehow would be reversed to success.

After much research, I began to prepare a paper for submission to the Executive Committee based on Einstein’s theory of relativity in the hopes that it would show that the law of physics would prove that bread does NOT always fall butter-side down, and thus Matt. 19:26 and Romans 8:28 would be home free. My research paper proceeded as follows:

The Einstein-Murphy Interaction
 The object of this paper is to disclaim Murphy’s Law that “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong,” and disprove his claim of proof that “Bread always falls butter-side down.”

We have, on the one hand, Dr. Watt’s classroom experiment; also, the claim that the law of physics will back Murphy up. If my research ends up proving that the laws of physics confirms Murphy, how will Christianity explain away the IBC experiment and support Matt. 19:26 and Romans 8:28? Therefore, this paper is the first attempt to bring together the two great thoughts of 20th Century physics—Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and Murphy’s Law.

(see endnote #1)In order to test this, I apprehended the main crux that goes to the heart of the matter—a slice of buttered bread with zero support in an Einstein field, and submitted it to rigorous theoretical analysis. In order to examine the problem to its utmost, I have added to the butter a further layer of jam. However, the analysis may not be entirely precise as the calculation will be done in the Newtonian approximation.

Statement of the problem:  I began by taking into view a loaf of bread that, for this purpose, will be considered to be a compact manifold admitting a well-behaved foliation.

Figure 1. Folium before limiting process

We will require for our slicing that the resultant folia be topologically simple. This precludes the consideration of falling bagels whose aerodynamic properties can be expected to differ radically from those of topologically simple slices. Each folium (hereinafter referred to as “slice”) can be represented as in Figure 1 in the limit E→0. Note that it would be invalid to apply such a limiting process to the jam layer, as the amount of jam generally spread tends to be appreciable.

With these reasonable assumptions, we find the center of gravity of the slice to lie at its geometric center as follows:

At a height:
d=1 pb2+pj (b+j)2) where Pb and Pj are the densities of the bread and jam sections 
Pbb + PjJ

For this calculation we will assume the slice to be a thin plate; the moment of inertia I, for the slice, is calculated for an axis perpendicular to an edge of length 1 and passing through the center of gravity of the slice; where m is the total mass of the slice, 1 is the length of the slice, 12 is the number in a dozen. The expression thus arrived at, is:

L = ml2

I have performed the analysis using the following four examples, which may legitimately be considered to cover the extreme cases: 

1.  North German pumpernickel, no jam.

2. North German pumpernickel, with thick jam.

3. Toasted presliced American bread, no jam.

4.  Toasted presliced American bread, with thick jam.

At time, t = 0, the slice will be presumed to lie at rest with the jammed side in the direction of increasing potential of the gravitational field. A further assumption will be that the slice is so positioned as to have side A (see Figure 1) parallel to the edge off which it is to be brushed. At the time the slice is (inadvertently) brushed by a hand (elbow?) and moves along the table with constant velocity vo  in a direction perpendicular to the table edge so that side A remains parallel to the aforementioned edge. To obtain a reasonable upper limit for the value of v measurements were carried out by B. Walti of the Physics Department of the University of Bern. It was found that the maximum velocity attainable by the human hand when propelled by and remaining attached to its natural owner is of the order of 1500 cm/sec. Since my calculations are quite elementary, I present only the end results: Equation of motion of slice while still in contact with (but over edge of) table:

Figure 2. Slice is moving toward floor
Thus, the slice lands such that  Ø crit> Ø>0, and depending on horizontal velocity, coefficient of friction between bread and floor and magnitude of bread's angular momentum, the energy associated with the angular momentum may be converted into flip energy. This effect arises because below the velocity of V=90, the slice unconditionally lands JSD (jam side down) in accordance with Murphy's Law! 
Deeper Analysis of Murphy’s Other Universal Law: "The greater the quality of the thing which could possibly be messed up, dictates the inevitability."
Included in this experiment was a further testing of Murphy’s other universal law: The inevitability of things being messed up based solely on the quality of the object involved.
My deduction was that in the case of deep-pile rugs, Murphy’s Law seemed to apply; for this kind of carpet was more likely to lie under falling jammed bread. The famous Clark-Trimble experiments of 1935 seemed to confirm this. Clark-Trimble arranged 400 pieces of carpet in ascending degrees of quality from coarse matting to priceless Chinese silk. Pieces of toast and marmalade, graded, weighed and measured, were then dropped on each piece of carpet and the marmalade-downward incidence was statistically analyzed. The toast fell right-side up every time on the cheap carpet, and fell marmalade downward every time on the Chinese silk. Most remarkable of all, the marmalade-downward incidence for the intermediate grades was found to vary exactly with the quality of the carpet!
Obviously there is a 2nd law of physics which declares that the outcome of Murphy’s Law #1, verified by the first law of physics and defined as “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong,” (proven by the fact that “bread always falls butter-side down”) is even more sure when the proportion varies with the quality of the carpet. In other words, Murphy’s Universal law appears correct! That is, “The greater the quality of the thing which could possibly be messed up, dictates the inevitability!”  
I panicked.  The Law of Physics confirms Murphy's Law!!  I had been so sure of myself. But I had to face it . . . I had failed to provide a solution to the IBC dilemma!
Wringing my hands in despair, I flung myself on the floor. But … suddenly a ray of hope penetrated and began to formulate into a question: “Could there possibly be any exceptions to the Laws of Physics?” I felt moved to proceed with more analysis. Surely, I needed some kind of revelation.
According to Socrates, in his “Meno,” if a person could pose just the right question to a problem, an answer would come ex-nihilo. Therefore, I forced myself to set side my Newtonian and Einsteinian concepts and "meditate.” Obviously, the most opportune time for this was during class.
As I gazed out the classroom window, I asked myself: “What is the correct question which will bring the answer?” Immediately Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty (which describes illogical and unexpected movement of atomic particles) flashed into my mind bringing into focus certain enigmas which were taking place in the church—enigmas which were obvious contradictions to the Law of Physics. Would these exceptions prove a loophole in Murphy’s Law and the Law of Physics? My hopes began to rise as I systematically began listing them.

Christian Case Histories Indicating a Suspension of the Law of Physics

  1. Individuals, while standing in church, and without warning, find that their inertia is suddenly overcome by the gravitational pull of the earth and they fall to the floor.
  2. The First Law of Thermodynamics is mysteriously enacted by the laying on of hands (matter being converted to energy) with no pressure of increasing entropy.
  3. The presence of gold fillings in teeth by those with no degree in alchemy.
  4. Arms and legs growing 2 or 3 inches, when presently this is only a feat of the amphibious and reptilian kingdom.
  5. The retardation of abnormal cell growth, in come cases complete reversal, without the aid of nuclear medicine or surgery.
  6. Eyesight and hearing appearing ex-nihilo, violating the law of cause and effect.
My hopes soared, and confidence surged through my veins. Already I could see the headlines: “IBC Student Wins Nobel Prize.” But ... I still had the Watts experiment to explain. Then with startling clarity the answer (as predicted by Socrates) came into my mind in the form of a question: “Did Brother Watts' experiment really fail?"

stared blankly at the teacher at the front of the classroom half wondering what he was writing on the board when suddenly, like a stroke of lightning, the answer came! I leaped to my feet, much to the teacher’s surprised delight (he thought I had finally solved the Deutero-Isaiah problem), and throwing all caution to the wind I dashed outside.

I knew it was imperative I tell Brother Watts right away. The faculty was already expressing their deep concern over him. He was refusing to eat any more bread—especially with peanut-butter.

dashed over to the third year classroom and burst into his class still in progress. The minute I entered, he could tell by the look on my face that I had come up with something. Dropping his chalk, his fingers gripped the edge of the lectern and with bated breath awaited my announcement.

"Brother Watts,” I declared breathlessly, “the experiment in the Systematic Theology class was a success after all!” My announcement evoked a rousing cheer from the students. They leaped to their feet hugging one another realizing the import this revelation would have for IBC—on the rest of their lives for that matter.

Brother Watts’ face was pale and incredulous. “How? I don’t understand ... I followed Murphy’s experiment exactly according to instructions. They all landed peanut-butter side down. How could you possibly disprove Murphy?” (By this time, Brother Gill, Troy Parker, David Cook and Pres. Coote, having heard the commotion, entered through the back door.)

"Oh, Brother Watts,” I exclaimed. “You didn’t do anything wrong. The class performed the experiment exactly the way it should have—and it was correct that the bread fall peanut-butter side down. It was inevitable because of ONE THING!” (From the corner of my eye I saw Brother David whip out his comb to smooth his hair for the momentous occasion, and Van Gill, with pen poised, ready to take notes. I couldn’t quite make out what Troy and David Cook were doing.)

I paced a couple of slow, deliberate strides toward the front, turned toward the class and spoke with all the professional tones I could muster.

"Like all of Satan’s clever plans,” I proceeded, “there is an insidious element of deception that is not always apparent. Brother Watts’ experiment followed the Law of Physics perfectly and therefore seemed to confirm Murphy’s Law. But … there was ONE DECEPTIVE FACTOR.”

I paused for a moment. A hush fell over the room. Brother David's comb stopped mid-air, Van Gill, knuckles white, still gripped his pen. I noted the color of Troy and David Cook's face; they were holding their breath. I measured my words exactly, for I wanted to give the very words as they had come to me.

Raising myself to full height, I took a deep breath and spoke with firm, resonant tones:

"Brother Watts ... the slices of bread actually fell on the dry side. It’s just that you had the class smear the peanut-butter on the WRONG SIDE!” 

The room came alive. Pandemonium took over. But no greater thrill or satisfaction could have come to anyone as when I heard Brother Watts bow his head and whisper, “Praise God.”



(1)  The scientific calculations in this story are excerpts from an article, "The Einstein-Murphy Interaction" by A. Held and Peter Yodzis, dated April 1, 1981, published in the Special Spoof Issue of the magazine, Analog, the mid December 1984 issue. pp 873-882, published by Davis Publications.

I wrote to the publisher of Analog asking permission to use excerpts from Held and Yodzis’ article and they referred me to their European office in Heidelberg, Germany. I contacted them and they, in turn, supplied with the physical address for both authors at the University of Bern in Switzerland. After numerous attempts on all avenues with no responses, I then took the liberty of going ahead with my story. It should be obvious to the reader that the science material is the authors' Held and Yodzis', but the fictitious dialogue between the faculty members is mine.

As of posting this, I just
discovered that Peter Hodzis is deceased and that he formerly taught at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and then at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. I could find no information on A. Held. Their original article can be found reproduced on numerous websites. To read the original article (which contains far more scientific data then I included in my story), go to: http://www.johnboccio.com/other/EM.pdf.


Unknown said...

Janis, you are a genius. LOL
May I request that you solve the puzzling phenomenon of why the coffee cup handle always stops behind the cup in the microwave?

I am not a robot--perhaps an automaton.

Dave Mitchell said...

What a great piece! I thought I was watching an episode of "Mythbusters."