Hell Explained By a Chemistry Student

I got this joke from my dad and he never sends forwards…so you know it’s a good one.

The following is an actual question given on a University of Alabama chemistry mid term.

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 :

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 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 a dded.

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.’


  1. Avitable

    January 11, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    I remember this one back from when I was in college. It’s a great one.

  2. Megan

    January 11, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Very nice!!!!

  3. Caryn

    January 11, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    I love that one! And, hey, he did show that he understood the difference!

  4. Robin

    January 11, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    I’m glad you guys enjoyed it :robin:

  5. David Bradley

    February 4, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    It is good, but it’s sooooooo old. I contributed this item to the Feedback page of New Scientist way back in the early 1990s, and it was old then!


    David Bradley’s last blog post..Who Do You Work For?

  6. Robin

    February 4, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    David – How cool, wow!

  7. David Bradley

    February 4, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Judging from your username, methinks you are taking the P.


    David Bradley’s last blog post..Who Do You Work For?

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