Santa Claus: An Engineers Perspective

I. 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 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 house hold, that comes
to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

II. Santa has about 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 967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with
a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the
chimney, fill the stockings, 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 on to 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.

III. 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
thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no
more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the "flying" reindeer could pull ten 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).

IV. 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 re-entering
the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 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 centrifugal forces of 17,500 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.

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