Something Old, Something New

25 December 2007

You know how popular the synched lights to "Wizards in Winter" was a couple of Christmases ago---and how some beer company used the display for an ad? I think this one is much better. It's on an airstream trailer. :)



Redneck Christmas not your thing? Geek out on a repost of mine from 2005. Interestingly enough, after some hits on this post from the Netherlands in October, there was an article stating how scientific researchers there had recently calculated some interesting facts about Santa's trip on Christmas Eve. Um, no you din't.

I picked up this piece many years ago. I didn't author it, but I wish I could credit the proper person.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. At an average census rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes that there is at least one good child in each.
  3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming that 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 (on the roof, of course), 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, we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household: a total trip of 75.5. 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, or 3000 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. Conversely, a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
  4. The payload on the sleigh add 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) can pull ten times the normal amount, Santa cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. He needs 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.
  5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This will heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as spacecraft 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---creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within .00426 seconds. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500 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 did deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s dead now. Merry Christmas, all!

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2 Comments:

Blogger E said...

This was in Spy Magazine in the January 1990 issue.

1:28 PM  
Blogger The Science Goddess said...

Thank you! Now we know who we've been stealing it from all these years. :)

2:25 PM  

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