The Thermodynamics of Hell

The Thermodynamics of Hell

A thermodynamics professor had written a take home exam for his graduate students. It had one question: “Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat), or endothermic (absorbs heat)? Support your

answer with a proof.” 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. 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 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. Some of

these 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 most 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 expect the number of souls in Hell to increases exponentially. Second, 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 in 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.

  1. 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 Miss Therese Banyan during my

freshman year that, “It will be a cold night in Hell before I go to bed with you,” and take into

account the fact that I still have not succeeded with her, then #2 cannot be true, and so Hell is



The student got the only “A”.

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