Monday, December 20, 2010

The Science of Santa

As a result of an overwhelming lack of requests, and with research help from that renowned scientific journal, SPY magazine (January, 1990) – I am pleased to present the annual scientific inquiry into 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 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 according to the 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 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 on to 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 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, which is 3,000 times the speed of sound. For the 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 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) 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. 353,430 tons travelling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance – this will heat the reindeer up 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, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporised within 4.26 thousandths of a second. 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.

So using Newtonian physics, this is not looking good.


If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he could be using the probabilities of all possible supposition of states that is part of quantum theory, so that Santa, in his protective plasma bubble (large enough to hold the sleigh, Reindeer, Santa and all the presents), would have to suppress the decoherence of the quantum state in the macro sized world.  Hence he can be in all places simultaneously and could then deliver the presents to all the right folks in the same night.  By using quantum tunnelling at a marco level, he could jump from one place to another bypassing the space-time fabric, not meet any other suppositions of himself, and pop out at on the roof or inside the house bypassing the challenge of “we do not have a chimney”.

The energy required for the utilising the quantum state at a macro level and to use quantum tunnelling for each hop would be equivalent to a significant part of the Suns output, so the sleigh needs to be powered by a captive black hole, which adds it’s own complications.  One hypothesis is that the captive block hole power source is contained in another dimension or even another parallel universe, to reduce the mass and radiation challenges in our universe. 

Meaning that Santa himself (we assume he is a he), is not from our dimension at all and his red suit is a containment system to support whatever requirements his life form needs in our dimension. 

The catch is that he must not be observed (ref. Schrodinger’s cat), because that would cause all the wave function to collapse and hence no presents to everyone, so please tell your kids not to look for Santa as it would stop him for everyone else!  Or better still dress up in a Santa suit and pretend to be him for your kids, to protect the real Santa from being observed as he does his work!

Merry Christmas Everyone :-)

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