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List of eponymous laws

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List of eponymous laws

This list of eponymous laws provides links to articles on laws, theorems, principles, adages, and other succinct observations or predictions named after a person. In some cases the person named has coined the law – such as Parkinson's law. In others, the work or publications of the individual have led to the law being so named – as is the case with Moore's law. There are also laws ascribed to individuals by others, such as Murphy's law; or given eponymous names despite the absence of the named person.


  • A–B 1
  • C–D 2
  • E–G 3
  • H–K 4
  • L–M 5
  • N–Q 6
  • R–S 7
  • T–Z 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10



  • Campbell's law: "The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."[3] Named after Donald T. Campbell (1916–1996)
  • Cassie's law describes the effective contact angle θc for a liquid on a composite surface.
  • Cassini's laws provide a compact description of the motion of the Moon. Established in 1693 by Giovanni Domenico Cassini.
  • Celine's laws are a series of three laws regarding government and social interaction attributed to the fictional character Hagbard Celine from Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
  • Charles's law, one of the gas laws in physics, states that at constant pressure the volume of a given mass of a gas increases or decreases by the same factor as its temperature (in kelvins) increases or decreases. Named after Jacques Charles.
  • Child's law states that the space-charge limited current in a plane-parallel diode varies directly as the three-halves power of the anode voltage and inversely as the square of the distance separating the cathode and the anode. Named after Clement D. Child; also known as the Child-Langmuir Law (after Irving Langmuir). See also Mott–Gurney law.
  • Chladni's law relates the frequency of modes of vibration for flat circular surfaces with fixed center as a function of the numbers of diametric (linear) nodes and of radial (circular) nodes. Named after Ernst Chladni.
  • Claasen's law, or the logarithmic law of usefulness: usefulness = log(technology).
  • Clarke's three laws, formulated by Arthur C. Clarke. Several corollaries to these laws have also been proposed.
    • First law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    • Second law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
    • Third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  • Coase theorem: Economic outcomes will always be Pareto efficient where transaction costs are negligible, regardless of the initial distribution of property rights, so long as those property rights are clearly defined.
  • Melvin Conway.
  • Cooper's law: The number of radio frequency conversations which can be concurrently conducted in a given area doubles every 30 months.
  • Cope's rule: Population lineages tend to increase in body size over evolutionary time.
  • Coulomb's law is an inverse-square law indicating the magnitude and direction of electrostatic force that one stationary, electrically charged object of small dimensions (ideally, a point source) exerts on another. It is named after Charles-Augustin de Coulomb.
  • Cunningham's law: The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question, it’s to post the wrong answer. Attributed to Ward Cunningham by Steven McGeady.
  • Curie's law: In a paramagnetic material the magnetization of the material is (approximately) directly proportional to an applied magnetic field. Named after Pierre Curie.
  • D'Alembert's principle: The sum of the differences between the forces acting on a system of mass particles and the time derivatives of the momenta of the system itself along any virtual displacement consistent with the constraints of the system, is zero. Named after Jean le Rond d'Alembert.
  • Dahl's law, a sound rule of Northeast Bantu languages, a case of voicing dissimilation.
  • Dale's principle, in neuroscience, states that a neuron is capable of producing and secreting only one neurotransmitter from its axon terminals. Named after Henry Hallett Dale but more recent data suggests it to be false. A more common interpretation of the original statement made by Dale is that neurons release the same set of transmitters at all of their synapses.
  • Dalton's law, in chemistry and physics, states that the total pressure exerted by a gaseous mixture is equal to the sum of the partial pressures of each individual component in a gas mixture. Also called Dalton's law of partial pressure, and related to the ideal gas laws, this empirical law was observed by John Dalton in 1801.
  • Darcy's law, in hydrogeology, describes the flow of a fluid (such as water) through a porous medium (such as an aquifer).
  • Davis' law, in anatomy, describes how soft tissue models along imposed demands. Corollary to Wolff's law.
  • formal logic regarding the negation of pairs of logical operators.
  • Dennard scaling: the computing performance per watt grows exponentially at roughly the same rate as Moore's law.
  • Dermott's law: The sidereal period of major satellites tends to follow a geometric series. Named after Stanley Dermott.
  • De Vaucouleurs' law, in astronomy, describes how the surface brightness of an elliptical galaxy varies as a function of apparent distance from the center. Named after Gérard de Vaucouleurs.
  • Dilbert principle: "the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management." Coined by Scott Adams as a variation of the Peter Principle of employee advancement; named after Adams' Dilbert comic strip.
  • Doctorow's law: "Anytime someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn't give you the key, they're not doing it for your benefit."
  • Dolbear's law is an empirical relationship between temperature and the rate of cricket chirping.
  • Dulong–Petit law states the classical expression for the specific heat capacity of a crystal due to its lattice vibrations. Named for Pierre Louis Dulong and Alexis Thérèse Petit.
  • Dunbar's number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar's number, but a commonly cited approximation is 150. First proposed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar.
  • Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.
  • Duverger's law: Winner-take-all (or first-past-the-post) electoral systems tend to create a 2 party system, while proportional representation tends to create a multiple party system. Named for Maurice Duverger.



  • Haber's rule is a mathematical statement relating the concentration of a poisonous gas and how long it must be breathed to result in death.
  • Haitz's law is an observation and forecast about the steady improvement, over many years, of light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
  • Hamilton's principle: the dynamics of a physical system is determined by a variational problem for a functional based on a single function, the Lagrangian, which contains all physical information concerning the system and the forces acting on it. Named after William Rowan Hamilton.
  • Hanlon's razor is a corollary of Finagle's law, named in allusion to Occam's razor, normally taking the form "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." As with Finagle, possibly not strictly eponymous. Alternatively, "Do not invoke conspiracy as explanation when ignorance and incompetence will suffice, as conspiracy implies intelligence."
  • Hartley's law is a way to quantify information and its line rate in an analog communications channel. Named for Ralph Hartley (1888–1970).
  • Hauser's law is an empirical observation about U.S. tax receipts as a percentage of GDP, theorized to be a natural equilibrium.
  • Hawthorne effect is a form of reactivity whereby subjects improve an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they are being studied. Named after Hawthorne Works.
  • Hebb's law: "Neurons that fire together wire together."
  • Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle: one cannot measure values (with arbitrary precision) of certain conjugate quantities, which are pairs of observables of a single elementary particle. The most familiar of these pairs is position and momentum.
  • Henry's law: The mass of a gas that dissolves in a definite volume of liquid is directly proportional to the pressure of the gas provided the gas does not react with the solvent.
  • Herblock's law: "If it's good, they'll stop making it." Possibly coined by Herbert Lawrence Block, whose pen name was Herblock.
  • Hess's law, in physical chemistry: the total enthalpy change during the complete course of a reaction is the same whether the reaction is made in one step or in several steps.
  • Hick's law, in psychology, describes the time it takes for a person to make a decision as a function of the number of possible choices.
  • Hickam's dictum, in medicine, is commonly stated as "Patients can have as many diseases as they damn well please" and is a counterargument to the use of Occam's razor.
  • Hitchens's razor is an epistemological principle maintaining that the burden of evidence in a debate rests on the claim-maker, and that the opponent can dismiss the claim if this burden is not met.
  • Hofstadter's law: "It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law" (Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach, 1979).
  • Hooke's law: The tension on a spring or other elastic object is proportional to the displacement from the equilibrium. Frequently cited in Latin as "Ut tensio sic vis." Named after Robert Hooke (1635–1703).
  • Hotelling's law in economics: Under some conditions, it is rational for competitors to make their products as nearly identical as possible.
  • Hubble's law: Galaxies recede from an observer at a rate proportional to their distance to that observer. Formulated by Edwin Hubble in 1929.
  • Hume's law, in meta-ethics: normative statements cannot be deduced exclusively from descriptive statements.
  • Humphrey's law: conscious attention to a task normally performed automatically can impair its performance. Described by psychologist George Humphrey in 1923.
  • Hund's rules are three rules in atomic physics used to determine the term symbol that corresponds to the ground state of a multi-electron atom. Named after Friedrich Hund.
  • Hutber's law: "Improvement means deterioration." Coined by financial journalist Patrick Hutber.
  • Isaac Bonewits's laws of magic are synthesized from a multitude of belief systems from around the world, collected in order to explain and categorize magical beliefs within a cohesive framework.
  • Law of Jante: a mentality that de-emphasises individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers.
  • Joule's laws are heat laws related to electricity and to gasses, named for James Prescott Joule.
  • Kepler's laws of planetary motion describe the motion of the planets around the sun. First articulated by Johannes Kepler.
  • Kerckhoffs' principle of secure cryptography: A cryptosystem should be secure even if everything about the system, except the key, is public.
  • Kirchhoff's laws are one law in thermodynamics and two about electrical circuits, named after Gustav Kirchhoff.
  • Klaiber's law: the silicon wafer size will dictate the largest diameter of ultrapure water supply piping needed within a semiconductor wafer factory.
  • Kluge's law: a sound law that purports to explain the origin of the Proto-Germanic long consonants. Named after Friedrich Kluge.
  • Koomey's law: the energy of computation is halved every year and a half.
  • Kopp's law: The molecular heat capacity of a solid compound is the sum of the atomic heat capacities of the elements composing it. Named for Hermann Franz Moritz Kopp.
  • Korte's law: The greater the length of a path between two successively presented stimuli, the greater the stimulus onset asynchrony must be for an observer to perceive the two stimuli as a single moving object.
  • Kranzberg's laws of technology – The first law states that technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.
  • Kryder's Law - on growth of density of magnetic disk storage, compared to Moore's Law


  • L'Hôpital's rule uses derivatives to find limits of indeterminate forms 0/0 or ±∞/∞, and only applies to such cases.
  • Lamarck's theory of evolution has two laws: The first can be paraphrased as "use it or lose it." The second is the more famous law of soft inheritance.
  • Lanchester's laws are formulae for calculating the relative strengths of predator/prey pair and application in military conflict.
  • Landauer's principle: there is a minimum possible amount of energy required to change one bit of information, known as the Landauer limit.
  • Leibniz's law is a principle in metaphysics also known as the Identity of Indiscernibles. It states: "If two objects have all their properties in common, then they are one and the same object."
  • Lenz's law: An induced current is always in such a direction as to oppose the motion or change causing it.
  • Lewis's law: The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.
  • Liebig's law of the minimum: The growth or distribution of a plant is dependent on the one environmental factor most critically in demand.
  • Linus' law: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." Named for Linus Torvalds.
  • Little's law, in queuing theory: "The average number of customers in a stable system (over some time interval) is equal to their average arrival rate, multiplied by their average time in the system." The law was named for John Little from results of experiments in 1961.
  • Littlewood's law: individuals can expect miracles to happen to them, at the rate of about one per month. Coined by Professor J E Littlewood, (1885–1977).
  • Lotka's law, in infometrics: the number of authors publishing a certain number of articles is a fixed ratio to the number of authors publishing a single article. As the number of articles published increases, authors producing that many publications become less frequent. For example, there may be 1/4 as many authors publishing two articles within a specified time period as there are single-publication authors, 1/9 as many publishing three articles, 1/16 as many publishing four articles, etc. Though the law itself covers many disciplines, the actual ratios involved are very discipline-specific.
  • Malthusian growth model, also referred to as the Malthusian law or simple exponential growth model, is exponential growth based on a constant rate. The model is named after Thomas Robert Malthus, who wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), one of the earliest and most influential books on population.
  • Marconi's law empirically relates radio communication distance to antenna tower height
  • Meadow's law is a precept, now discredited, that since cot deaths are so rare, "One is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, until proved otherwise." It was named for Sir Roy Meadow, a discredited paediatrician prominent in the United Kingdom in the last quarter of the twentieth century.
  • alleles. Mendel's second law, the law of independent assortment, states that different traits will be inherited independently by the offspring.
  • Menzerath's law, or Menzerath–Altmann law (named after Paul Menzerath and Gabriel Altmann), is a linguistic law according to which the increase of a linguistic construct results in a decrease of its constituents, and vice versa.
  • Metcalfe's law, in communications and network theory: the value of a system grows as approximately the square of the number of users of the system. Framed by Robert Metcalfe in the context of ethernet.
  • Miller's law
    • In communication: "To understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of." Named after George Armitage Miller.
    • In psychology: the number of objects an average person can hold in working memory is about seven. Also named after George Miller.
    • In software development: "All discussions of incremental updates to Bugzilla will eventually trend towards proposals for large scale redesigns or feature additions or replacements for Bugzilla." Named after Dave Miller.
  • Miller's Rule, in optics, is an empirical rule which gives an estimate of the order of magnitude of the nonlinear coefficient.
  • Mooers' law: "An information retrieval system will tend not to be used whenever it is more painful and troublesome for a customer to have information than for him not to have it." An empirical observation made by American computer scientist Calvin Mooers in 1959.
  • Moore's law is an empirical observation stating that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every 24 months. Outlined in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation.
  • Muphry's law: "If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written." The editorial equivalent of Murphy's law, according to John Bangsund.
  • Murphy's law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." Ascribed to Edward A. Murphy, Jr.


  • Naismith's rule is a rule of thumb that helps in the planning of a walking or hiking expedition by calculating how long it will take to walk the route, including ascents.
  • Neuhaus's law: Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed. This "law" had been expressed earlier. For example, Charles Porterfield Krauth wrote in his The Conservative Reformation: "Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points."
  • Newton's law of cooling: The rate of cooling (or heating) of a body due to convection is proportional to the difference between the body temperature and the ambient temperature.
  • Newton's laws of motion, in physics, are three scientific laws concerning the behaviour of moving bodies, which are fundamental to classical mechanics (and since Einstein, which are valid only within inertial reference frames). Discovered and stated by Isaac Newton (1643–1727), they can be formulated, in modern terms, as follows:
    • First law: "A body remains at rest, or keeps moving in a straight line (at a constant velocity), unless acted upon by a net outside force."
    • Second law: "The acceleration of an object of constant mass is proportional to the net force acting upon it."
    • Third law: "Whenever one body exerts a force upon a second body, the second body exerts an equal and opposite force upon the first body."
  • Niven's laws: "If the universe of discourse permits the possibility of time travel and of changing the past, then no time machine will be invented in that universe."
  • Nyquist rate is twice the highest frequency contained within a signal; the minimum sampling rate required to avoid aliasing is strictly greater than this. Named after Harry Nyquist.
  • Occam's razor: explanations should never multiply causes without necessity. ("Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.") When two or more explanations are offered for a phenomenon, the simplest full explanation is preferable. Named after William of Ockham (ca.1285–1349).
  • Oddo-Harkins rule: elements with an even atomic number are more common than those with odd atomic number. Named after Giuseppe Oddo and William Draper Harkins.
  • Georg Simon Ohm (1789–1854).
  • Georg Simon Ohm.
  • Okrent's law is Daniel Okrent's take on the argument to moderation.
  • Okun's law, in economics: when unemployment increases by 1%, the annual GDP decreases by 2%.
  • Leslie Orgel:
    • First rule: "Whenever a spontaneous process is too slow or too inefficient a protein will evolve to speed it up or make it more efficient."
    • Second rule: "Evolution is cleverer than you are."
  • Ostrom's Law, in economics and property law: resource arrangements in practice can be represented in theory, such as arrangements of the commons or shared property.
  • Papert's principle: "Some of the most crucial steps in mental growth are based not simply on acquiring new skills, but on acquiring new administrative ways to use what one already knows."
  • Pareto optimality: Given an initial allocation of goods among a set of individuals, a change to a different allocation that makes at least one individual better off without making any other individual worse off is called a Pareto improvement. An allocation is defined as "Pareto efficient" or "Pareto optimal" when no further Pareto improvements can be made.
  • Pareto principle: for many phenomena 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes. Named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, but framed by management thinker Joseph M. Juran.
  • Parkinson's law: "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion." Corollary: "Expenditure rises to meet income." Coined by C. Northcote Parkinson (1909–1993).
  • Parkinson's law of triviality: "The time spent on any agenda item will be in inverse proportion to the sum of money involved." Also due to C. Northcote Parkinson.
  • Peter principle: "In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." Coined by Dr. Laurence J. Peter (1919–1990) in his book The Peter Principle. In his follow-up book, The Peter Prescription, he offered possible solutions to the problems his principle could cause.
  • Planck's law, in physics, describes the spectral radiance of a black body at a given temperature. After Max Planck.
  • Plateau's laws describe the structure of soap films. Named after Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau.
  • Poe's law (poetry): There is a maximum desirable length for poems: "The unit of poetry must be fixed by the reader's capacity of attention, and … the limits of a poem must accord with the limits of a single movement of intellectual apprehension and emotional exaltation." Named for Edgar Allan Poe.[4][5] See "The Philosophy of Composition".
  • Poe's law (religious fundamentalism): "Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humour, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing."[6] named after Nathan Poe who formulated it on the Web site Christian Forums in 2005.[7] Although it originally referred to creationism, the scope later widened to religious fundamentalism.[8]
  • Poisson's law of large numbers: For independent random variables with a common distribution, the average value for a sample tends to the mean as sample size increases. Named after Siméon Denis Poisson (1781–1840) and derived from "Recherches sur la probabilité des jugements en matière criminelle et en matière civile" (1837; "Research on the Probability of Criminal and Civil Verdicts").
  • Postel's law: Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others. Derived from RFC 761 (Transmission Control Protocol, 1980) in which Jon Postel summarized earlier communications of desired interoperability criteria for the Internet Protocol (cf. IEN 111)[9]
  • Powell doctrine, in foreign policy: specific questions must be answered before initiating a military conflict (e.g. clear achievable objective, overwhelming force to minimize casualties, exit strategy).
  • Premack's principle: More probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors. Named by David Premack (1925 – )
  • Pythagorean theorem is a relation in Euclidean geometry among the three sides of a right triangle (right-angled triangle). The Pythagorean theorem is named after the Greek mathematician Pythagoras



  • Thomas theorem: "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences," a social law as far as there are any. (After W.I. Thomas and D.S. Thomas.)
  • Titius–Bode law: "a hypothesis that the bodies in some orbital systems, including the Sun's, orbit at semi-major axes in a function of planetary sequence". Named for Johann Daniel Titius and Johann Elert Bode.
  • Tobler's first law of geography: "Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things." Coined by Waldo R. Tobler (b. 1930).
  • Tully–Fisher relation, stated by R. Brent Tully and J. Richard Fisher, relates the intrinsic luminosity of a galaxy to its velocity width.
  • Vegard's law, in metallurgy, is an approximate empirical rule which holds that a linear relation exists, at constant temperature, between the crystal lattice parameter of an alloy and the concentrations of the constituent elements. Named for Lars Vegard.
  • Verdoorn's law, in economics: faster growth in output increases productivity due to increasing returns. Named after Dutch economist Petrus Johannes Verdoorn.
  • Verner's law, stated by Karl Verner in 1875, describes a historical sound change in the Proto-Germanic language whereby voiceless fricatives *f, *þ, *s and *x, when immediately following an unstressed syllable in the same word, underwent voicing and became respectively *b, *d, *z and *g.
  • Vierordt's law, states that, retrospectively, "short" intervals of time tend to be overestimated, and "long" intervals of time tend to be underestimated. Named after German physician Karl von Vierordt.
  • Wagner's law predicts that the development of an industrial economy will be accompanied by an increased share of public expenditure in gross national product, and is named after the German economist Adolph Wagner (1835–1917).
  • Walras' law: budget constraints imply that the values of excess market demands must sum to zero.
  • Weber–Fechner law, named after the Germans Ernst Heinrich Weber and Gustav Theodor Fechner, attempts to describe the human perception of various physical stimuli. In most cases, Stevens' power law gives a more accurate description.
  • Werther effect: A spike of emulation suicides after a widely publicized suicide, named after the protagonist of Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.
  • Weyl law, in mathematics, describes the asymptotic behavior of eigenvalues of the Laplace-Beltrami operator. Named for Hermann Weyl.
  • Wiio's laws: The fundamental Wiio's law states that "Communication usually fails, except by accident".
  • Wike's law of low odd primes: "If the number of experimental treatments is a low odd prime number, then the experimental design is unbalanced and partially confounded." (Wike, 1973, pp. 192–193).[12]
  • Winter's law: A sound law operating on Balto-Slavic short vowels. Named after Werner Winter
  • Wirth's law: Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster.
  • Wolff's law: Bone adapts to pressure, or a lack of it.[13]
  • Woodward–Hoffmann rules, in organic chemistry, predict the stereochemistry of pericyclic reactions based on orbital symmetry.
  • Yao's principle, in computational complexity theory: the expected cost of any randomized algorithm for solving a given problem, on the worst case input for that algorithm, can be no better than the expected cost, for a worst-case random probability distribution on the inputs, of the deterministic algorithm that performs best against that distribution. Named for Andrew Yao.
  • Zawinski's law: Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot expand are replaced by ones which can.
  • Zeigarnik effect, named after Bluma Zeigarnik: people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.
  • probability distributions involved, which are applied by statisticians not only to linguistics but also to fields remote from that. See also Zipf–Mandelbrot law.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^'s%20law&f=false
  3. ^ Campbell, Donald T., Assessing the Impact of Planned Social Change The Public Affairs Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover New Hampshire, USA. December, 1976.
  4. ^ Murry, John M. (1923). Pencillings. Ayer Publishing. p. 88.  
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Chivers, Tom (2009-10-23). "Internet rules and laws: the top 10, from Godwin to Poe". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  7. ^ Poe, Nathan (August 11, 2005). "Big contradictions in the evolution theory". Christian Forums. p. 6. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  8. ^ Aikin, Scott (2009-01-22). "Poe's Law, Group Polarization, and the Epistemology of Online Religious Discourse".  
  9. ^ "Internet Experiment Note 111". 1979. 
  10. ^ "The General Glut Controversy". The New School for Social Research (NSSR). Archived from the original on March 19, 2009. 
  11. ^ Evans, Leonard; Schwing, Richard C (1985). Human behavior and traffic safety. Plenum Press.  
  12. ^ Wike, E. L. (1973). Water beds and sexual satisfaction: Wike’s law of low odd primes (WLLOP). Psychological Reports, 33, 192-194.
  13. ^  
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