Hell: Exothermic or Endothermic?

This answer to a college chemistry exam was sent to me recently and restores my faith in the new generation of college students. The answer was purportedly in response to the bonus question on a University of Arizona chemistry midterm: “Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?”


Here is the student’s answer:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving, which is unlikely. 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.

Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that 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 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 proportionately 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. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, ‘It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,’ and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct….. …leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting ‘Oh my God.’

The student reportedly received a well-deserved A+

However, I still prefer the Simpson version of Hell . . .

UPDATE: The answer is reportedly not from a student, but it has been augmented, here.
Kudos: Phil Kroner

48 thoughts on “Hell: Exothermic or Endothermic?”

  1. I swear some people are so “smart” they are dumb. This student probably received an A because it was cleaver. People just need to take a joke. I swear nothing ticks me off more than people who have to act smart.

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  3. Since a soul has no mass, no mobility, no fixed location in space/time, none of this is relevant.

  4. According to theory , expansion of real gases is endothermic so has some one got endothermic and exothermic mixed up in the end of this tale !

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  7. Boyles’ law only applies at constant temperature. A ‘location’ can not be endothermic or exothermic, only a ‘process’ can be that. Conclusion: nor the student nor the professor knows jack shit about chemistry. Therefore this story is a hoax and thus not funny and certainly not brilliant.

  8. Another engineer….

    I’m told all the screws in Hell are straight head and all the screwdrivers Philips head.

    It is supposed to be Hell after all. Or in the words of Gary Larson, “Welcome to Heaven. Here’s your harp./Welcome to Hell. Here’s your accordion.”

  9. I’d argue that it had to be isothermic, otherwise some clever engineering might use the heat difference to cool another part of it down by making some type of engine, and we all know hell can’t be cold.

  10. Exo, Endo, matters not…
    that kind of heat
    should not be sought!

  11. I appreciate this humor whether plagiarism or not.

  12. @Elaine M.- I appreciate Rowan Atkinson’s bit, but I think hell would be more like Sartre’s short story, “No Exit,” where people of entirely different vices get on each others nerves for eternity. —-Sort of like my job. ;->

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