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A bit of Christmas science

Several years ago my mother-in-law (ex) used to insist on giving me Christmas presents related to my work, so I ended up with some really useless stuff!  You know the sort of thing " mouse mats that you can put family photos in " basically things that you would never take into the office.  There was one exception to this truly classic pile of junk, a book called e-tales two in which there was a classic …

A bit of Christmas science

There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world.  However, since Santa does not visit children of the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist (except in Japan) 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 there is at least one good child in each.

Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming 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 around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stocking, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, east whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get onto 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 purpose of calculations), we are now talking 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops and breaks.

This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second " 3000 time the speed of sound.  For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a pokey 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 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself.  On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds.  Even granting that the “flying” reindeer can pull 10 times that 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, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).

600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance " this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.  The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each.  In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing  the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake.  The entire reindeer team would be vaporised 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 m.p.s. in 0.001 seconds, would be subjected to acceleration forces of 17,000 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, even if Santa did exist, he’s dead now.

Unless, of course, he’s magic!

Santa Clause

Happy Christmas, from all the team @ Ayrmer Software.

Date: 23/12/2010

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