The following was passed to me for comment:
This is forwarded from an OU graduate, citing one of Dr. Schlambaugh`s
final test questions for his final exam. of 1997. Dr. Schlambaugh of the
Oklahoma Chemical Engineering Dept. is known for asking questions on the
finals like "Why do airplanes fly?" In May 1997 the "Momentum, Heat and Mass
Transfer II" final exam question was: "Is Hell exothermic or endothermic?
Support your answer with proof."
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law or
some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:
First we postulate that if souls exist, they must have some mass. If they
do, then a mole of souls also must have a mass, so at what rate are souls
moving into Hell, and at what rate are they leaving ? I think we can safely
assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it does not leave.
Therefore no souls are leaving. As for souls entering Hell, let's look at
the differing religions that are in the world today. Some religions say 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 people do not belong to more than
one of them, we can project that all people and all souls go to Hell.
The birth and death rates being as they are, we can expect that the
number of souls in Hell will increase exponentially.
Now we look at the rate of change in the volume of Hell.
Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell
to stay the same, the ratio of the mass of the souls and their volume must
remain constant. So, 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.
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
So which is it ?
If we accept the postulate given to me by Theresa Banyan during freshman
year that: "It'll be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you!", and
taking into account that I still have not succeeded in having sexual
relations with her, then the second option cannot be true.
Thus Hell is exothermic.
COMMENT BY W.J.G.:
Points re: thermodynamics.
- Assume "OU Graduate" refers to Oklahoma University, not Open
- Oklahoma does not inspire confidence. Inhabitants believe a beautiful
morning automatically presages a beautiful day. Specification for ideal
corn height is that of an elephant's eye. Most Oklahomans have never seen
an elephant. They vary in size. Oklahomans are given to riding in Surreys
with fringes. These are vehicles totally unsuitable in 90% of the world's
weather. This all adds up to unreliability.
- The name "Schlambaugh" is believed to be a corruption of German "schlamm"
- meaning "muddy" and "bauch" - "belly". Suitable translation renders "Muddyguts"
- "Why do airplanes (sic) fly?" is an invalid question. Aeroplanes
cannot fly. Unlike birds they have no choice, so that the intransitive
verb cannot be used of an inanimate subject. Aeroplanes are subjected to
an extraneous force which causes aerodynamically induced levitation. In a
similar argument, water cannot be said to freeze. Should it be subjected
to an extraction of sensible and latent heat under specific pressure
conditions, its state will alter from the liquid to the solid.
- Reference is made to 'Questions LIKE "Why do airplanes fly?" Does this
mean questions about aerodynamics, or about invalid questions ?
- "Proof" is required of the student regarding a matter of which he/she
cannot by definition have had experience. Neither could the student have
access to measuring apparatus which would enable him/her to have carried
out repeatable cause/effect observation which is the basis of scientific
proof. "Proof" is itself an empirical term both in science and in law, and
has no absolute quality.
- The existence of souls and their having mass is a non sequitur.
- A "mole" of soul is an absurdity. "Mole" unless referring to a harbour
wall or a "little gentleman in black velvet" is the molecular weight in
grams of a single element or compound. A soul consisting of a single
substance whose weight could be estimated in grams is an absurdity.
- Boyle's Law has to do only with gases, and only with the ratio of
pressure to volume at constant temperature. On the dubious assumption that
Hell is totally gaseous, but subject to changes in temperature, Charles'
Law and the work of Guy Lussac must be taken into consideration. It is
conceded, however, that Cole's Law is not relevant, most students of this
subject being well beyond their salad days.
- The student's conception of Hell betrays the empiricism and
anthropomorphism which pervades and bedevils human logic. If the argument
is on a purely physical basis, then if Hell is to expand it must expand
into something. If it is to contract it must withdraw from something. If
its volume is to be affected by large-scale immigration or emigration,
then it must, to that degree, obey the laws of physics and be part of the
physical universe. Hitherto Hell has not been detected by astronomy,
either by the Hubble telescope or by radio astronomy. It must therefore be
many million light years from earth. If souls do have mass, then their
transference will take a very long time. Indeed, in an expanding universe,
Hell, like everything else must be getting further way at a rapid rate, so
many souls will never make it. Some may even be interrupted on their
journey and sucked into a black hole. Would this be a better or worse fate
than going to Hell (discuss!) So we have little to worry about.
- If Hell expands and/or contracts thermodynamically, what is the source
of energy and what is the recipient of energy which cause these changes?
Are souls themselves combustible? If so is there any incombustible
residue? If so, is this re-cycled, and as what?
- The student's reply probably reveals the real source of his thinking
in that he apparently "has the hots" for Theresa and is thus exothermic
himself. Probably a more important question to him is "Is she
- Any fool knows that in reality, Hell is adiabatic.
- In spite of the above, the debate raises two theological issues:
- If it is Satan's job to punish the wicked, whose side is he on?
- What is the purpose of ETERNAL punishment since it offers neither
absolution nor rehabilitation?
- As popular ideas of Hell envisage its temperature as being
considerably higher than that at which haemoglobin can exist, why is it
© The Estate of William John Green, 2004