Monday, December 1, 2008

An Engineer's Report on Santa Claus

I found the following report on the sad demise of that jolly ol' Santa fellow. I share it with you now so that you have plenty of time to do your own shopping in lieu Santa's fate, as described below. It outlines the implications of the incredible job Santa has to accomplish on the night before Christmas...

In regards to Santa's means of trans
port, there is 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.

In reg
ards to the sheer scale of Santa's task, we could say that (in round numbers) there are approximately 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't seem to handle most of the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children who don't celebrate Christmas, that potentially reduces the workload to as little as 32.5% of the total - or 650 million. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 185.7 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.

nta 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 1,664 visits per second. This is to say that for each household with good children, Santa has less than 1/1600th 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 185.7 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 144.846 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 1,315 miles per second, 6,000 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 649,950 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 433,300 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 714,945 tons. Again, for comparison - this is eight times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.

714,945 tons traveling at 1,315 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 28.9 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 vapourized within 8.62 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 35,400.45 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 8,728,709 pounds of force.

In conclusion - if Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's been vapourized by now.


Ben Neufeld said...

Very fun!!! Thanks. I must use it myself.

Ken said...

I'm not sure which I find more amusing -- the Engineer's report or the picture I put above it! I smile every time I see that kid's face.

Anonymous said...

When your sister Corrina was little, I told her that there was no Santa Claus. Mom overheard us and she was angry with me. Your approach is a lot more scientific and "long winded." So how are you going to handle it when the kids find out that Santa has burnt up and has turned into space debris.
Love Dad
PS: Was that what landed near Lloydminster?

Ken said...

We never bothered to create that illusion of Santa in our house. We just told the kids other people don't want to talk about Jesus, so they have Santa instead!
God bless his jolly soul.

Aaron Wiebe said...

Can't explain it - There's just something really funny about the thought of a reindeer spontaneously bursting into flames while hurtling through the air at a Gagillion mph. Gives new meaning to why Rudolf's nose glows. Funny, they never sing about that?

Ken said...

I also find it funny to imagine this hefty Santa dude being flattened into the back of his sleigh with a totally panicked look on his cartoon-face just before he vapourizes! This must be the same sense of humour that laughed as a boy at that goofy coyote falling off cliffs, etc!