Game version (thermodynamic laws)
A 2011 cartoon strip rendition, reproduced in full below, of the so-called game version of the laws of thermodynamics.
In thermodynamics humor, the game version of the laws of thermodynamics restates the laws of thermodynamics, in over-laymanized terms, as a game, the most-popular version of which is as follows:

You have to play the game | Thermodynamics governs existence (zeroth law)

1) You can’t win (first law)
2) You can’t break even (second law)
3) You can’t quit the game (third law)

Other variants exist as well. [1]

Etymology | Early models
In his 1925 Silliman Lectures "The Anatomy of Science", American physical chemist Gilbert Lewis stated the following: [4]

“[Living organisms are] cheats in the game of entropy, [which] alone seem able to breast the great stream of apparently irreversible processes. These processes tear down, living things build up. While the rest of the world seems to move towards a dead level of uniformity, the living organism is evolving new substances and more and more intricate forms.”

This seems to the origin of the so-called "game version" of the laws of thermodynamics as they have frequently been passed around popular culture.

The game version of the laws has sometimes been attributed to American physicist C.P. Snow; this, however, may be a mis-attribution. [2]

American science writer Isaac Asimov stated at least the first two game versions in his 1970 article “In the Game of Energy and Thermodynamics You Can’t Break Even”, and was being credited with the paraphrased version (of the first two laws) by the end of the decade. [3]

Arthur Bloch
American humor writer Arthur Bloch (Ѻ), person behind the Beckhap’s law and the thermodynamic game reinterpretation (1977) of Ginsberg’s theorem (1975), in his Murphy's law collection.

Ginsberg’s theorem | Bloch reinterpretation
In 1975, someone—possibly either William Burroughs or Philip Whalen, poetry associates of American political philosopher Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)—in an issue of The Coevolution Quarterly, in a listing of parody-like proverb laws, i.e. Murphy’s laws (Ѻ), listing in fun a so-called "Ginsberg’s theorem", as follows: [6]

Ginsberg’s theorem:

1) You can’t win.
2) You can’t break even.
3) You can’t even quite the game.

The three statements being vicariously attributed to Ginsberg who, supposedly, stated these fun facts during a circa 1974 poetry session. [6] There is, to note, no association at this point to thermodynamics.

In 1977, someone, in an issue of Production Engineering, stated the following: [7]

“After the three laws of thermodynamics, the most used laws in engineering are Murphy’s laws—which begin with, ‘if something can go wrong … it will!” There have been countless corollaries and adjunct theorems made, …”

On the same page, a mention of Ginsberg’s theorem is made; though connection between the two does not seem to exist..

In 1977, American writer Arthur Bloch (1948-) published his popular Murphy’s Law and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong! (Ѻ), the same book from which Beckhap’s law derives, wherein he convoluted thermodynamics with Ginsberg’s theorem as follows: [8]

“If you doubt this, witness the laws of thermodynamics as they are restated in Ginsberg’s theorem:

1. You can’t win.
2. You can’t break even.
3. You can’t eve quit the game.

Murphy’s law of thermodynamics is simpler: Things get worse under pressure.”

This pun association soon thereafter became thermodynamics folklore; akin to the mythology of information theory, via John Neumann and Claude Shannon, becoming equated to thermodynamics.

Ginsberg did, to note, employ the second law in at least one of his poems, namely: “Yes and It’s Hopeless”, a snippet of which is as follows: (Ѻ)
Ginsberg (second law poem)
This, however, is a heat death model interpretation of the second law, not a "you can't break even" interpretation, as Bloch adumbrates things in attempts at parody humor.

In 1983, American physicist Bruce Lindsay was referring to the first law in the form of there’s no free lunch: [11]

“A somewhat more flippant way of expressing the social content of the first principle of thermodynamics is: ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch.’ (someone always pays!) The current humorous literature is full of such clichés as: ‘you cannot win,’ which also exemplify the first principle.”

(add discussion)
laws of thermodynamics (game version) 1000px
A 2011 comic take on the game version of the laws by American chemical engineer Rich Byrnes. [5]

One example of mis-attribution being the following 2007 listing in Politipedia: [9]

Ginsberg thermodynamics

Another example of mis-attribution is found in American science writer Arthur Wiggins’ 2007 The Joy of Physics, wherein he gives the following mis-fact: [10]

Ginsberg (mis-attribution) 2

In short, Ginsberg never paraphrased the three laws.

Charlie Smalls wrote a song title "You Can't Win," for the 1975 stage musical "the Wiz." The opening lines of the song are nearly identical to Ginsburg's Theorem:
"You can't win/You can't break even/And you can't get out of the game."
The song lyrics are copyrighted 1974 [12], one year earlier than the first attribution of the Theorem to Ginsberg in Coevolution Quarterly.

1. Humor (section) | Thermodynamics quotes – Wikiquote.
2. (a) Keenan, Will. (2006). “The Thermodynamics of SECI” (chapter, pgs. 172-74); In: 10 Years Southeast European Cooperative Initiative, 2006. Springer Vienna.
(b) The full entropy quote –
3. (a) Asimov, Isaac. (1970). “In the Game of Energy and Thermodynamics You Can’t Break Even”, Smithsonian Institute Journal (pg. 10), June.
(b) Langford, David. (1979). War in 2080 (pg. 212). William Morrow.
4. Lewis, Gilbert. (1925). The Anatomy of Science. Silliman Lectures, Yale University Press, 1926.
5. Byrnes, Rich. (2011). “Boil’s Laws: the Laws of Thermodynamics and Casinos”, Funnybone, ChEnected, Apr. 08.
6. (a) Anon. (1975). “Article”, The Coevolution Quarterly (Ginsberg’s theorem, pg. 138; Ginsberg, pgs. 121-23), 8-12.
(b) Allen Ginsberg – Wikipedia.
7. Anon. (1977). “Article”, Production Engineering (pg. 20), 24(7-12).
8. (a) Bloch, Arthur. (1977). Murphy’s Law and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong! Publisher.
(b) Arthur Bloch – Wikipedia.
(c) Anon. (1984). “Book Review: Murphy’s Law and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong!”, Veterinary and Human Toxicology (pg. xcix), 26(6), Dec.
9. Inman, Nick. (2007). Politpedia (pg. 168). Harriman House Limited.
10. Wiggins, Arthur W. (2007). The Joy of Physics (cartoonist: Sidney Harris). Prometheus Books.
11. Lindsay, Robert B. (1983). “Social Exemplifications of Physical Principles”; in: Old and New Questions in Physics, Cosmology, Philosophy, and Theoretical Biology: Essays in Honor of Wolfgang Yourgrau (editor: Alwyn Merwe) (§B7:647-58; free lunch, pg. 649). Plenum Press.

External links
The game is thermodynamics – Facebook.
Ginsberg’s theorem – Wikipedia.

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