breaking loose or freezing over: the physics of hell

fire and brimstone!

what follows is an actual question given on a university of washington engineering faculty mid term exam.

the professor claimed that one student’s answer (reproduced below) was so profound that he was driven to share it with colleagues, which is why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it too.

bonus question:
is hell exothermic [gives off heat] or endothermic [absorbs heat]?

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 variant.

boyle's law
aside: although i would have mentioned entropic decline, or the third fundamental theorum of thermodynamics as my first reference

one student, however, was much more holistic in his approach. inspired, he 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, 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.

breaking loose
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 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 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 freezes over.
so which of the two is it? aha, now we reach for some empirical research. if we :
frozen over
  • accept the postulate given to me by a girl i knew, teresa banyan during my freshman year who said, “ … and it will be a cold day 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:
statement 2 cannot be true, and thus i am sure that hell is exothermic and will not freeze.”

quod erat demonstrandum.

the writer was the recipient of the only A.
oh, and teresa: sleep with him for goodness sake.
the pen is mightier than the sword.