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There is a phenomenon which I've seen happen across many circumstances. Generally, it goes something like this:

  1. The complainant has a recurring observable problem.
  2. The complainant contacts an expert who may be capable of solving that problem.
  3. When the complainant attempts to reproduce the problem while the expert is present, the problem is no longer apparent. The expert never witnesses the problem.
  4. The problem may or may not occur again after the expert goes away.

I'm wondering if there is a term or expression that best describes this phenomenon.

I'm also curious if this is the correct forum for such a question, because the answer I'm looking for doesn't necessarily have to be in English. For example, it could be something like schadenfreude, which may or may not have a simple English counterpart (although in that case, Wikipedia suggests the expression Roman holiday).

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It's called real life. – Robusto Jul 12 '14 at 1:30
"We were unable to reproduce the problem" – StoneyB Jul 12 '14 at 2:02
up vote 6 down vote accepted

One term for that which is specific to computing is a Heisenbug:

A heisenbug is a software bug that seems to disappear or alter its behavior when one attempts to study it. The term is a pun on the name of Werner Heisenberg, the physicist who first asserted the observer effect of quantum mechanics, which states that the act of observing a system inevitably alters its state.


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+1. A pun upon the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which among other things implies that attempts to measure something will unavoidably influence the thing being measured... sometimes enough to invalidate the measurement. – keshlam Jul 12 '14 at 1:58

What you are describing is an intermittent fault:

coming and going at intervals : not continuous

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"intermittent fault" would just imply randomly intermittent. Not the kind of murphy's law correlation explicitly described in the question. – Martin Smith Jul 12 '14 at 1:33
+1 for intermittent. I'd go one step further, however. I'd call it a "situational irony of intermittency"! We're not talking traditional, heavy-duty irony here, just a situational irony in which there's a mildly amusing situation in which an expected outcome (I.e., getting one's problem diagnosed and fixed) disappoints us by not being as expected and consequently kicks us in the derriere. Oh, and the diagnostician just might think you're crazy! Don – rhetorician Jul 12 '14 at 1:58
@MartinSmith - You appear to be unaware of this fact, but 'Murphy's Law' is a myth. The aggravating coincidences it purports to describe are just that -- coincidences, not correlations. – Erik Kowal Jul 12 '14 at 2:47
Of course I'm aware of that. Your answer completely ignores the "expert attempts to diagnose it" part of the question though and clearly doesn't convey that information at all. – Martin Smith Jul 12 '14 at 9:01
@MartinSmith - I'm looking as hard as I can, but I don't see your better answer anywhere. – Erik Kowal Jul 12 '14 at 20:05

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