An Engineer's Concept of Santa Clause
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 (except maybe 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 about 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
1/1000 th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the
chimney, fill the stocking, 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 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 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 thousands 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
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, 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 a
spacecraft reentering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of
reindeer would adsorb 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 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 m.p.s. in
.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, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.
Merry Christmas