24th May 2024

Dennis Overbye and his atypical view on the laws of thermodynamics


Dennis Overbye is a science correspondent for the New York Times. He presented a humorous summary of the three principal laws of thermodynamics in his book Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos: The Scientific Quest for the Secret  of the Universe published in 1991. The crux of the three laws of thermodynamics are simply stated as follows:

  1. Whenever heat energy is converted into any other form of energy or vice versa, each is equivalent to the other. One cannot obtain energy without expending an equivalent amount of energy of the other form.
  2. No engine working in a cycle is capable of converting the entire energy input in the form of heat to useful work.
  3. Absolute zero is unattainable.

In his book, Dennis Overbye stated the above laws as follows:

  1. You can’t win.
  2. You can’t break even.
  3. You can’t go out of the game.

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