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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Gecko: 31, March 2000

The Gecko: 31, March 2000


Democracy on the march: The Vietnam News Agency recently reported: "In a

historic decision, prisoners are allowed to cast their votes deciding who among them

deserve the special presidential amnesty to be granted this year. And 'the polling

results have matched our proposed list by 90-95 percent,' says Colonel Do Nam, head

of the management department of Rehabilitation Camp under the Ministry of Public



** This was an "Actual Question" given on a University of Washington

chemistry midterm.

"Is Hell Exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)? Support

your answer with 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 people do not usually 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 increase exponentially.

Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states

that in order for temperature and the pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume

of 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.

  2. 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 Ms Therese Banyan during my Freshman year

that "It will be a cold night in Hell before I sleep with you," and take

into account the fact that I still have not succeeded in that area, then (2) cannot

be true, and so Hell is exothermic.

The student got the only A.



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