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(See Second law of thermodynamics.) The bio-ecologist Barry Commoner used this concept as the last of his famous "Four Laws of Ecology".According to American theoretical physicist and cosmologist Alan Guth "the universe is the ultimate free lunch", given that in the early stage of its expansion the total amount of energy available to make particles was very large.
The "free lunch" in the saying refers to the nineteenth-century practice in American bars of offering a "free lunch" in order to entice drinking customers.If there appears to be no direct cost to any single individual, there is a social cost.Similarly, someone can benefit for "free" from an externality or from a public good, but someone has to pay the cost of producing these benefits.In 1945, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" appeared in the Columbia Law Review, and "there is no free lunch" appeared in a 1942 article in the Oelwein Daily Register (in a quote attributed to economist Harley L. The 19 sources use the phrase in relating a fable about a king (Nebuchadnezzar in Dos Utt's retelling) seeking advice from his economic advisors.Morrow's retelling, which claims to derive from an earlier editorial reported to be non-existent, but closely follows the story as related in the earlier article in the El Paso Herald-Post, differs from Dos Utt's in that the ruler asks for ever-simplified advice following their original "eighty-seven volumes of six hundred pages" as opposed to a simple failure to agree on "any major remedy".(See Free rider problem and Tragedy of the commons).
In mathematical finance, the term is also used as an informal synonym for the principle of no-arbitrage.
"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" (alternatively, "There is no such thing as a free lunch" or other variants) is a popular adage communicating the idea that it is impossible to get something for nothing.
The acronyms TANSTAAFL, TINSTAAFL, and TNSTAAFL, are also used.
This brought its use and the idea into mainstream popularity.
In the sciences, TANSTAAFL means that the universe as a whole is ultimately a closed system.
It was the institution of the "free lunch" I had struck.