There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau).

At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh, and get on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound.

For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500,000 tons, not counting Santa himself.

On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting a "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them. Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons. 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance.

This would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft reentering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would bust into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 miles per second in .001 seconds, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs, and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

Merry Christmas!

I read this for the first time way back in 1999 but it still is an interesting take on the whole thing.

## Sunday, December 11, 2005

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## 2 comments:

Scrooge.

Ahh...Newtonian physics. Take time dilation into consideration T1 = T0{1/[1-(velocity square/speed of light square)]} and Santa's temporal frame of reference would slow down relative to the surface of the earth, except for the fact that Santa would have to slow back down at each house. This would mean that Santa's temporal frame of reference would speed back up. I just did the calculation and the dilation factor would only be about 1.00001218.

Now for some humorous junk science:

While Santa is accellerating, there would be an apparent loss of energy within the frame of reference of the earth which may manifest itself in a burst of photons. Perhaps this explains Chistmas lights.

If Santa went backwards fast enough then perhaps his frame of reference would conceivably speed up instead of slow down. Were this the case he could age several years overnight, but still get the job done. This could explain how he manages to eat all those cookies and drink all that milk.

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