Serendipity and Murphy’s law are two sides of the same coin


Member of Chimica Oggi – Chemistry Today’s Scientific Advisory BoardPolitecnico di Milano, Dipartimento di Chimica, Materiali e Ingegneria Chimica “Giulio Natta”, via Mancinelli 7, 20131, Milano, Italy

In my professional life I happened to stand between a Murphy's Law strike and the most unexpected and unpredictable discovery. Discovery by serendipity is not as exceptional as you may think, in fact it has been reported that at least 30% of discoveries have been made with the serendipity assist (1).
In my experience as a chemist - and I also believe in the experience of many colleagues - the distance between these two extremes - Murphy’s law and serendipity - is sometimes very small. Moving toward one direction or the other depends on our capability to transform a disaster into a clever intuition and subsequent action, but as you can imagine the consequences of this move may have a remarkably different outcome.
An unexpected and unpredictable discovery obtained by serendipity is often relevant and may allow the opening of new roads and opportunities. It is a fact that many important discoveries have been obtained through serendipity assist. Although, due to the intrinsic importance of these discoveries, our ego sometimes may transform the casualty of the finding into a wonderful a posteriori insight.
Being prepared to accept a misreading promptly confir ...