A hell of an exam
Exam Question: The following is an actual question given on a University
of Washington, Seattle chemistry midterm: Is Hell exothermic (gives off
heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)? Support your answer with proof .."
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law
(gas cools off when it expands and heats up when it is compressed) or some
One student, however, wrote the following:
First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So,
we need to know the rate that souls are moving into Hell and the rate they
are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to
Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.
As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different
religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state
that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since
there are more than one of these religions and since people do not belong
to more than one religion, we can project that all people and all souls
go to Hell.
With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of
Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we must look at the rate of change
of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the
temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has
to expand as souls are added.
This gives two possibilities:
1 . If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls
enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until
all Hell breaks loose.
2. Of course, if Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase
of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell
So, which is it?
If we accept the postulate given to me by Ms. Theresa Banyan during
my freshman year, that "It will be a cold night in Hell before I sleep
with you," and take into account the fact that I still have not succeeded
in having sexual relations with her, then, #2 cannot be true, and thus
I am sure that Hell is exothermic.
This student got the only A