Is There a Santa Claus?
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
Sarita 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 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.
3) 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 onto 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 .78 miles per household, a total
trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must
do at ieast once every 31 hours, plus feeding and 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.
4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming
that each child gets nothing more than medium-sized logo 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.
5) 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 QUlNTlLLlON 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 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 ever DlD deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s
P.S. For those chilled by the grim fate of Santa in this analysis, the
entire calculation assumes only one Santa. If there is more than one jolly
individual performing the annual ritual of cherubic philanthropy, then
things change as we shall see. This Is conceptually equivalent to a
parallel processing procedure, and I must provide credit for this insight
to an electrical engineering friend of mine.
If there are 2 santas operating in parallel, then we can divide the
workload evenly. However, the calculations will still produce forces and
aerodynamic heating which no man or beast can survive.
If there are 10, the calculations are different, but the results are the
If there are 1000 santas, or what we shall call a kilosanta, then our –
calculations show that each santa has 1 visit per second, travels 75,500
miles on Christmas Eve to complete his mission, pulls 321 tons in his
sleigh, and travels at roughly 2435 miles per hour, which is 3 times the
speed of sound, or roughly as fast as the SR-71 Blackbird, the US Air
Force’s (until recently) premier high altitude spy aircraft. Even with the
reductions in speed and subsequent reductions in drag, aerodynamic
heating is still unreasonable and the kilosanta still dies.
lf we run the calculation for 1,000,000 santas operating in parallel, or a
Megasanta, then the results are more encouraging. For instance, each santa
travels at 2 miles per hour between stops, has about 20 minutes at each
house, and travels a total of 75 miles. Furthermore, each santa has a load
of only 182 lbs. for his 91 stops. Even if each santa is a load (as we can
safely assume from the stories surrounding our corpulent culprit!). we are
dealing with a total of approximately 532 lbs.
Our alternate conclusion then? Santa is not dead, he‘s distributed.