An Engineer's View of Santa's Yearly Trip
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Humor #1 | Humor #2 | Humor #3
Here we present evidence that lays
waste to the hoax that is Santa Claus:
- No known species of reindeer can fly. But it is estimated that 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.
- 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 the 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 each.
- Santa has 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 822.6 visits per second. This
is to say that for each 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 the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about 0.78 miles
per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least
once every 31 hours, plus feeding, etc. This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, which
is 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 - a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
- 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 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.
- 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance (considering the huge frontal
area the cargo would present to the airstream) - this 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 flame 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
- A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015
pounds of force.
p.s. It might be a good idea to leave out some milk and cookies just in case...
---thanks again to Steve for this one