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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Rutman

Razors, rules, dicta, and other curios

Updated: Aug 21, 2023


Newton's Flaming Laser Sword [image credit to (what else) generative AI]


Some phrases, slogans, tag-lines, by-lines, jingles, and the like that have been trademarked over the years include:

  • THE (The Ohio University)

  • JUST DO IT (Nike)

  • IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING (K-Sports, Black Glove, International Marketing BV Netherlands,...)

  • GOT MILK (THE CALIFORNIA MILK PROCESSOR BOARD)

  • THINK DIFFERENT (Apple Inc.)

  • YOU'RE FIRED (제이엠비피, 인크)

  • HASTA LA VISTA, BABY (B.J. Alan Company)

  • LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE! (Ready to Rumble, Inc.)


And what about internet memes? Some have, some haven't, but when running over a number of these an interesting meme subset popped up - the epistemological razor. This is a rule for rejecting knowledge claims, and the following is an incomplete list of razors, rules-of-thumb, and dicta both general and internet-specific. Without further ado:


Cunningham's law states "the best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question; it's to post the wrong answer." Coined by Steven McGeady and named after Ward Cunningham (inventor of the wiki) it was held by McGeady that Wikipedia is the best demonstration of this law.


Godwin's law of Nazi analogies asserts that as an online discussion grows longer (regardless of topic or scope), the probability of a comparison to Nazis or Adolf Hitler approaches 100%.


Hanlon's razor is an adage or rule of thumb that states "never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."


Hickam's dictum is a counter-corollary to Occam's razor (see below), to wit that "patients can have as many diseases as they damn well please" (thus taking into account cases where patients have multiple illnesses even though all symptoms could be explained by one).


Hitchen's razor is an epistemological razor that states "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." Thus the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim; if this burden is not met its opponents need not argue further in order to dismiss it.


Newton's flaming laser sword or Alder's razor was explained by its inventor Alder thusly:

...we should not dispute propositions unless they can be shown by precise logic and/or mathematics to have observable consequences. In its strongest form it demands a list of observable consequences and a formal demonstration that they are indeed consequences of the proposition claimed.

Möller's law is an internet adage that goes like this:

As a gender discussion continues, the probability that an appeal for the use of Spivak pronouns will occur approaches one. At such a point, the discussion is forfeited and must cease on the spot.


Occam's razor - also known as the principle or law of parsimony (Latin: lex parsimoniae), is the principle that "entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity". Thus given competing theories or explanations, the simpler one, for example a model with fewer parameters, is to be preferred.


And finally Rule 34 of the internet:

If it exists there is porn of it .

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