What is The Nature of Hell?



This text appeared in The National Post, a Canadian newspaper, on June 17th 1999:

The following is reported as an actual question appearing in a University of Washington chemistry exam:

is hell exothermic (releasing heat) or endothermic (absorbing heat)? Support your answer with a proof”.

Most students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle’s law, which holds that the pressure of a given mass of gas is inversely proportional to its volume at a constant temperature.




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 that souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think it is safe to assume that once a soul is in 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. Some 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 since 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 therefore expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume of Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell must 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 is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Ms. Therese Banyan during my freshman year “that it will be a cold night in Hell before I sleep with you,” and take into account the fact that I have not yet succeeded in having sexual relations with her, then (2) cannot be true, and thus, I am sure that Hell is exothermic.

The student got the only A.