How One Student’s Clever Response to “Hell” Question on Midterm Got Him an A+

posted on May 8, 2014 at 1:23 am

Every now and then, one of those students comes along who really thinks outside the box. Rather than simply answer a question, that student goes above and beyond and gets pretty, well, creative with his or her reply.

think outside the box

For example, a bonus question on a University of Arizona chemistry midterm exam asked students the following:

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

Most of the answers were pretty typical (for chemistry students, that is). Students explained their beliefs using Boyle’s Law (which describes how gas pressure increases as volume decreases and vice versa) or some variant.

Boyles Law

One student’s response, however, was so “profound” that the professor felt inclined to share it with colleagues via the Internet…and so the mass circulation began.

It will not only make your head spin (we’re still not sure if this philosophical explanation makes any sense or is total B.S., and frankly, we have to give props either way), you’ll also crack up at the “personal touches” he includes to develop his case.

Don’t take our word for it – you’ve got to read it for yourself. The following is reputed to be what the student actually wrote:

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, which is unlikely. 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 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. 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.’

science response channing tatum gif

So, what do you think – was this an A+ response? The professor thought so!


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