Here's a testing question: is hell exothermic of endothermic?


THE MAGPIE: NOW THAT the US presidential election is out of the way, Magpie last week held out the prospect this week of a dollop of silliness.

However, an e-mail from a pal at commercial property people Jones Lang LaSalle (they've a lot of time on their hands at JLL these days) suggests this is not the moment for frivolity.

The e-mail was on the weighty matter of the nature of hell, as allegedly posed by a Dr Robert Shambaugh of the University of Oklahoma school of chemical engineering. It purports to be a final exam question from May 1997. Shambaugh, says the e-mail, is known for asking questions such as "why do airplanes fly?" on exam papers.

His May 1997 question for his Momentum, Heat and Mass Transfer II class was: "Is hell exothermic or endothermic? Support your answer with proof."

Magpie was delighted with the following answer, as was Doc Shambaugh (allegedly).

Most of his students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's law which, as we know you know, describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system, or some variant thereof.

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 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!'."

The author, it is claimed, got an A+ for the answer.


Okay. Just enough room for some frivolity. We'll start with a dog in Colechester, England, who glued his jaws together after he sank his teeth into a fast-food menu.

Cymbeline, a Scottish terrier, is trained to pick up the post from the doormat and hand it to his owner, Kimberly Fisher (41).

But he came unstuck when a high-gloss finish on a menu glued his jaws closed for more than half an hour. "He could not set down the Roosters menu when he dropped the rest of the post," said Ms Fisher.

"It was a high-gloss paper menu which had turned into a paste; the gum was stuck between his teeth. This distressed him and he pawed his mouth. I tried to help but within seconds the menu had glued his jaws shut."

Roosters restaurant specialises in chicken and the menu promises "mouthwatering results".


A group from Peru believe they have the perfect dog for US president-elect Barack Obama and his family when they move into the White House - the only problem is it's bald and toothless.

Obama revealed he wanted his daughters to have a puppy when they moved but it would have to be hypoallergenic as his daughter Malia has allergies.

The Peruvian hairless dog could be the answer. "We want to give a male puppy to Obama's daughters,"said Claudia Galvez of Friends of the Peruvian Hairless Dog Association. She has sent a letter to the US embassy in Lima containing details about a pedigree puppy known as Ears.


Between now and January 20th, we must not lose sight of what we are going to miss. So here's the first weekly reminder of one of the delights of the past eight years: Bushisms.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." - August 5th, 2004.