A retiring professor of Physical Chemistry at RMCS Shrivenham was setting his last exam for a graduate course in statistical thermodynamics. Being a bit bored, and having a wry sense of humor, he set a single question:

Is Hell exothermic or endothermic? Justify your answer.

He had little idea what to expect, nor how to grade the results, but decided to reward any student who produced a reasonable and consistent reply.

Most of the students wrote proofs using Boyle's Law (gas cools off when it expands and heats up when it is compressed) or some variant. The top student however wrote as follows:

First, we postulate that if souls exist, then they must have some mass. If they do, then a mole of souls also has mass. At what rate are souls moving into hell, and at what rate are they leaving? I think we can safely assume that once a soul gets to hell, then it will not leave, therefore no souls are leaving.

As for souls entering hell, we must examine the different religions which exist today. Some of these state that if you are not a member of the religion, then you will go to hell. Since there is more than one of these religions, and people do not belong to more than one religion, we can assume that all people and all souls go to hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can thus expect the number of souls in hell to increase exponentially.

Now we must examine the rate of change of volume in hell. Boyle's law states that for the temperature and pressure in hell to remain constant, the ratio of the mass of souls and volume also must remain constant. There are thus two possible conditions:

  1. If hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter, then the temperature and pressure will increase until all hell breaks loose.
  2. Conversely, if hell is expanding at a faster rate than the rate of increase of souls in hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until hell freezes over.

We can now solve the problem with the 1990 postulation of Theresa Simmond, the girl who lived across the hall from me in first year residence. Since I have not yet been successful in having sexual relations with her, condition (2) above has not been met. Thus, condition (1) is true, and hell is exothermic.

He awarded the only A grade.

Based on an unoriginal email forwarded by Chris Madell.

 copyright gashbag @ 2004

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