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The Physics of Santa and His Reindeer



Credit to Mr. Powlin (who read this last year about the same time) and Snopes.com, where I found this humorous commentary once again. For those of you who did not hear this last Christmas or those who want to get into the spirit of the physics-filled holiday season, I thought I'd post this up for a few giggles. Happy Holidays, all! :snowman:

No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these areinsects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which onlySanta has ever seen.

There are two billion children (persons under 18) in the world.BUT since Santa doesn't appear to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhistchildren, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total — 378 million according to Population ReferenceBureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5children per household,that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at leastone good child in each.

Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to thedifferent time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east towest (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with goodchildren, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jumpdown the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents underthe tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get backinto the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed aroundthe earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of ourcalculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75½ million miles, not counting stops to do whatmost of us must do at least once every 31hours, plus feeding andetc.

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 fastestman-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky27.4miles per second — a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

If every one of the 91.8 million homes with good children were toput out a single chocolate chip cookie and an 8ounce glass of 2% milk, the total calories (needless to sayother vitamins and minerals) would be approximately 225 calories (100 for the cookie, give or take, and125 for the milk, give or take). Multiplying the number of calories per houseby the number of homes (225 x 91.8 x 1000000), we get the total number ofcalories Santa consumes that night, which is 20,655,000,000 calories. To breakit down further, 1 pound is equal to 3500 calories. Dividing our total number of caloriesby the number of calories in a pound (20655000000/3500) and we get the numberof pounds Santa gains, 5901428.6, which is 2950.7tons.

The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element.Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (twopounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who isinvariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull nomore than 300 pounds.Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see above) could pull TEN TIMESthe normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload (not even counting the weight ofthe sleigh) to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison, this is four times theweight of the Queen Elizabeth.353,000 tons traveling at 650miles per second createsenormous air resistance — this willheat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pairof reindeer will absorb 14.3QUINTILLION joules ofenergy. Per second. Each.

In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously,exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in theirwake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will besubjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back ofhis sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In conclusion: If Santa ever DID deliver presents on ChristmasEve, he's dead now.


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