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April 28, 2006


Invention and Creativity

The Roger Milliken Science Center
The following is alleged to be a (bogus?) bonus question given on a recent undergraduate chemistry final examination.

The answer by one student was so "profound" and delightful that I wanted you to have the pleasure of enjoying it as well. Since the student is a young person, readers should be understanding if the rhythm of the student’s commentary becomes somewhat “bawdy” at times.

Subject: Discussion of the interaction(s)between the concepts of exothermic (gives off heat) and endothermic (absorbs heat), as well as the opposite. Your deliberation should indicate an awareness of contemporary relational psychology as seen through various publicly acknowledged categorical perspectives, such psychology, psychoanalysis, a non-conflictual model or framework of philosophy, hard science and religion. Your discussion should be entirely clear to the average person, working or non-working, and the conclusion(s) should be creatively surprising, engendering feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. While extremely rigorous, the tone of the discussion should convey a strong sense of interest in the need to promote a renewed public attentiveness toward efforts to bolster current or creatively develop new techniques to reduce the tension/stress sometimes induced by practical and interpersonal demands in everyday life.

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Mot of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law that 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 constant, the volume of Hell must expand proportionately as souls are added.

This leaves two major possibilities, although there surely may be more:

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 might it be?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Sandra 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 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is endothermic 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 extinct...leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being. This clear proof of a divine being explains why, just last night, Sandra kept shouting "Oh my God."


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