The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. Hat tip to Annabelle Mark who is a constant source of this type of material
Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?
The answer by one student was so ‘profound’ that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle’s Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. 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 at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.’
THIS STUDENT RECEIVED AN A+
Hell explained by a Chemistry Student
Tue, 13 Jan 2009 23:56:34 GMT
I’ve always been a bit mystified by the notion that these stories need to be set up as "an actual exam question" to make them worthy of reading. If I simply enjoy the story on its own (see Snopes for more background) does that mean that I’m somehow dull and boring? To me these are all in the category of the lyric from "Johnny Tarr:"
Even if you saw it yourself, you wouldn’t believe it,
But I wouldn’t trust a person like me, if i were you
I wasn’t there I swear i have an alibi
I heard it from a man who knows a fella who says it’s true!