Ginsberg's theorem

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Ginsberg's theorem is a parody of the laws of thermodynamics in terms of a person playing a game. The quote is attributed to the poet Allen Ginsberg.[1]


The "theorem" is given as a restatement of the first, second, and third laws of thermodynamics:[2][3][4][5]

  1. You can't win. (restatement of first law of thermodynamics)
  2. You can't break even. (restatement of second law of thermodynamics)
  3. You can't even get out of the game. (restatement of third law of thermodynamics)

It is sometimes stated as a general adage without specific reference to the laws of thermodynamics.[6][7][8]


  1. ^ Harris, Sidney; Wiggins, Arthur W. (2007). The Joy of Physics. Buffalo, N.Y: Prometheus Books. p. 186. ISBN 1-59102-590-7. 
  2. ^ Bloch, Arthur (2003). Murphy's Law. New York, N.Y: Perigee. p. 20. ISBN 0-399-52930-6. 
  3. ^ Zanella, Andrew; Copp, Newton (1993). Discovery, innovation, and risk: case studies in science and technology. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. p. 142. ISBN 0-262-53111-9. 
  4. ^ Jim August (1999). Applied reliability-centered maintenance. Tulsa, Okla: PennWell. p. 341. ISBN 0-87814-746-2. 
  5. ^ Philip Ackerman-Leist (2010). Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing. p. 217. ISBN 1-60358-033-6. 
  6. ^ Robert A. Bethem; Boyd, Robert W.; Bob Boyd; Cecilia Basic (2008). Trace quantitative analysis by mass spectrometry. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. p. 109. ISBN 0-470-05771-8. 
  7. ^ Newhouse, John (2008). Boeing versus Airbus: The Inside Story of the Greatest International Competition in Business (Vintage). London: Vintage. p. 4. ISBN 1-4000-7872-5. 
  8. ^ Mastrosimone, William (1981). The woolgatherer: a play in two acts. New York: S. French. p. 36. ISBN 0-573-61821-6. 

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