Time for a Laugh - The Science of Santa
25 November 2020
Posted by: Callum Morrison
I have observed some euphoria in the air with the impending arrival of Christmas.
It seems there is a rumour that a fat man named “Santa” wearing a seriously retro red suit is expected to fly around the sky behind a team of Reindeer dropping gifts into the houses of “Good” children. Further, it seems he is expected to do this to all houses containing “Good” children in the world in a single night.
I have researched the facts as follows:
(1) No known species of Reindeer can fly. BUT as there are believed some 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be fully described and classified this does not fully and completely rule out “Flying Reindeer” that only Santa has seen, and presumably be able to capture, domesticate and train.
(2) There are some 2.5 billion children (people 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 is at least one “good” child per household)
(3) Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to earth rotation, differing time zones etc. and assuming he travels east to west, which only seems reasonable. This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park his Sleigh. (An unlikely aeronautical contrivance), squeeze his bulk down a chimney (risking an oil heater pipe enema), fill the stocking(s), eat whatever snacks are left, ascend the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move onto the next house.
(4) Now assuming these stops are evenly distributed (and we know they are not, but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept.) we are now talking about 0.98 kilometres per household, a total trip of some 85.5 million kilometres. This is not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours. This means Santa’s sleigh is moving at an average speed of around 989 kilometres per second, or about 3,600 times the speed of sound. (For the purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle ever created, the Ulysses Space Probe can cover a pokey 42.4 kilometres per second. A conventional Reindeer can run at 45 kilometres per HOUR, Tops.
(5) The Payload of such an undertaking adds another interesting element to the equation. If we assume that each ‘good’ child receives no more than a medium sized Lego set weighing a paltry 1.5 kg then the sleigh must therefore weigh 478,000 tonnes, not counting Santa who is invariably described as overweight. On land a ‘conventional’ Reindeer can slowly pull a load of 450 kilos a limited distance at a modest rate. If we grant “Flying Reindeer” (see point 1) unlimited stamina and speed and a pulling load 10 times that of a conventional reindeer, say 4,500 kilos we don’t need 6, 8 or even ten reindeer. No. We must have 114,300 Reindeer. This increases the weight of the load to 393,430 Tonnes. By comparison Queen Elizabeth (Yes, the Ship) weighs less than one quarter of this.
(6) 478,000 tonnes travelling at 989 kilometres per second creates enormous air resistance, made even worse at low altitudes. This will heat the Reindeer up in a similar fashion to a spacecraft entering the earth’s atmosphere, but 10 times faster and weighing 150,000 times more.
(7) The leading pair of Reindeer. (They are always shown hitched in pairs, except for the little guy in front who has a red nose- I presume a concession to ‘frictional heating’ as described here) will absorb 1400 QUINTILLION Joules of energy. Each……Per second……Repeatedly. …… and burst into a massive ball of flame instantaneously, in turn exposing each pair of Reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms to disperse the ash. The entire Reindeer train will be vaporised within 4.26/1,000th of a nanosecond. Santa in the meantime will be pinned into his Sleigh by centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than the force of Gravity. A 150-Kilo Santa (which would be slim compared to contemporary depictions) would be pinned into his sleigh by 2,315,015.61 Kilos of Force.
(8) In conclusion. If ever Santa really did exist and ever attempted to deliver presents in this manner.
He is dead now.
in Environmental Health General Topics