The Physics of Santa and his Reindeer
(1) No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are
300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified,
and while most of these are insects and germs, this does
not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer, which only Santa
has ever seen.
(2) There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in
the world, BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the
Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces
the workload to 15% of the total -- 378 million according
to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census)
rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million
homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in
(3) Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks
to the different time zones and the rotation of earth,
assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical).
This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to
say that for each Christian household with good children,
Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the
sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings,
distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat
whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney,
get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house.
Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly
distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know
to be false, but for purposes of calculation we will
accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household,
a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting stops to
do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours,
plus feeding and etc.
This means that 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 on earth, the
Ulysses space probe, moves at a pokey 27.4 miles per
second. A conventional reindeer can run, tops, at 15
miles per hour.
(4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting
element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than
a medium-sized Lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying
321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably
described as being overweight. On land, conventional
reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting
that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES
the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or
even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the
payload -- not even counting the weight of the sleigh --
to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison, this is four
times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth oceanliner.
(5) 353,430 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates
enormous air resistance, which will heat the reindeer up
in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth's
atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3
QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short,
they will burst into flames almost instantaneously,
exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening
sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will
be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa,
meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces
17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250 pound Santa
(which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the
back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.
Conclusion: If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christams
Eve, He's dead now.
NORTH POLE, SANTA'S VILLAGE - For Immediate Release
It has come to the attention of Santa's workshop that there have been disparaging remarks made in the press recently about Santa's very existence. Several key points are overlooked by this callous, amateurish, so-called study.
As was admitted by the skeptics, there is only a very small probability of finding a flying reindeer. That is precisely because they are all located at the Workshop. Your very argument against Santa is proof of his existence! As is widely known (Re: the excellent historical documentaries "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer") the flying reindeer are not a separate species, but were in fact given the power of flight due to eating magic acorns, which is passed on in their offspring.
A series of cascading assumptions have been relied upon to show the "impossibility" of delivering all presents in one Christmas. For example, there was assumed a uniform distribution of children across homes. Toronto/Yorkville, or NYC/SOHO, or other yuppie neighborhoods, have less than the average (and don't forget the DINK/SINK homes (Double Income No Kids, Single Income No Kids)), while the Catholic (the predominant Christian denomination) families with 10 children would skew that derived 15% of homes down a few percent.
You've also assumed that each home that has kids would have at least one good kid. Let us assure you that anti-selection applies, and homes with good kids tend to have more than their share of good kids? Still other single-child homes are notorious for spoiled "naughty" children and average 55% delivery on a good year. Let's drop that number of homes down a few more percent.
A simple history lesson reminds us that, the first major schism in the Church split the Eastern Churches, centered in Byzantium, from the Western, which remained centered in Rome, prior to the Gregorian correction to the Julian calendar. The Eastern "Orthodox" Churches do not recognize the Gregorian correction for liturgical events, and their Christmas is, as a result, several days after that of the Western Churches'. Thus, Santa's schedule is not as tight as previously indicated.
Santa does indeed FedEx a number of packages ahead of time, since he is not be able to fly into Air Force Bases, or into tower- controlled areas near airports. He's certainly not into dodging SCUD missiles over the no-fly zones in Iraq, so he uses DHL there. Subtract some more homes.
In regards to speed and time, we can't reveal all the details, but let us remind you of basic relativity theory: The faster you go, the slower time progresses. Do you think StarTrek came up with the idea of warp drive? So, if Santa could go faster than light, then he can easily visit all the good children which are not uniformly distributed by either concentration in each home or by number of children per household, and get home before he left so he can digest all those stale cookies and warm milk. (Has anyone thought of ice cubes?)
Aha, you say, Enterprise has matter-antimatter warp engines, Santa only has reindeer, where does he get the power to move that fast? The answer is right before your skeptical eyes! The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy. Per second. Each. This is an ample supply of energy for the maneuvering, acceleration, etc., that would be required of the loaded sleigh. The reindeer don't evaporate or incinerate or get crushed because of this energy; they accelerate! What do you think they have antlers for, fighting over females? Think of antlers as furry shield generator arrays.
The issue of weight constraints and delivery methods also shows a shocking lack of knowledge of basic matter/energy relations and beginning quantum physics. (Picture a two dimensional complex function mapped to the surface of a sphere with approximately 9000 nodal surfaces, and 18 million regions of relatively high amplitude.) Assuming this is getting way ahead of most people's conceptual limits, we'll just say that Captain Kirk wasn't the first to say "beam me down." Transporters, replicators, and holo-projections have been standard equipment in some workshops and certain aerospace vehicle way before the 24th century.
If that's not enough, watch the news on the 24th at 11 o'clock. NORAD (one of the few government agencies with more than 3 initials in it's name and therefore more trustworthy than the rest) tracks Santa every year and displays radar shots of him approaching from the North Pole. They haven't bombarded him yet, so they must believe too, right?
We certainly hope this clears up any damage caused by the bad press. Santa dead, indeed--some people will twist any statistic model to "prove" their cynical theory.