An Engineer's View of Santa Claus
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.
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 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 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
the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now
talking about 0.78 miles per household, a total trip of 71.604
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, 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
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 - this will heat the reindeer up in the
same fashion as spacecrafts 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 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.
In conclusion - If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas
Eve, he's dead now.