An Engineer's Christmas

Subject: An Engineer's Christmas
From: Ken Poshedly <poshedly -at- bellsouth -dot- net>
To: Techwr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 2009 08:03:32 -0800 (PST)

I'm sure that at least some (or most) of you have seen this "scientific" explanation about Santa Claus before (maybe too many times), but even so, I thought it'd be appreciated by those of you who haven't seen it. Enjoy!
 
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An Engineer's Christmas
 
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 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney (and for those without a chimney, to run around and find another "fitting" point of entry -- further slowing down his work), 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 a distance of 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting Santa's bathroom stops or breaks.
 
This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second -- that is, 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 500,000 tons (1 billion pounds), 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 AT LEAST 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).
 
Six hundred thousand tons (1.2 billion pounds) 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 instantly, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake.. (Are reindeer heat shields being used?) 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 miles per second in 0.001 second (1 thousandth of a second), would be subjected to acceleration forces of 17,000 g's (a space launch is perhaps 2 to 3 g's). A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to (or projected clear through) 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 (or red, if you prefer) goo.
 
Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.
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