Thermodynamics Professor Robert Schambaugh of the University of Oklahoma School
of Chemical Engineering had written a take-home exam for
his graduate students. Dr. Schambaugh is known for asking
questions such as, "Why do airplanes fly?" on his final exams. The final
for Spring Semester 1997 was no different. It contained only one question:
Is hell exothermic or endothermic? Support your answer with a proof.
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyles Law or
some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:
First, we postulate that if souls exist, they must have some mass.
If they do, then a mole of souls can also have a mass. So, at what rate
are souls moving into hell and at what rate are souls 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 souls entering hell, lets 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 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 souls
in hell to increase exponentially.
Now, we look at the rate of change in volume in hell. Boyles Law states
that in order for the temperature and pressure in hell to stay the same,
the ratio of the mass of souls to the volume must remain constant.
- So, 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.
- 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 me by Therese Banyan
during freshman year ("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 therefore hell must be exothermic.
The student, Tim Graham, got the only A.