December 14, 2004

Is there a Santa(and the response)?

                            IS THERE A SANTA CLAUS?

 As a result of an overwhelming lack of requests, and with research help
from that renown 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 1
 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 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 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 .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 least 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 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 (a rounded figure).  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 (the ship, not the monarch).

 5.  353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates an enormous 
 amount of heat when you factor in the air resistance - this will heat the
reindeer up in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's 

The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION
(14,300,000,000,000,000) 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 be subjected to forces 17,500.06 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 DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, 
 he's dead now.

The response
  The analysis you sent me about the death of Santa Claus, based on 
  classical physics, is seriously flawed owing to its neglect of 
  quantum phenomena that become significant in his particular case. As 
  it happens, the terminal velocity of a reindeer in dry December air 
  over the Northern Hemisphere (for example) is known with tremendous 
  precision.  The mass of Santa and his sleigh (since the number of 
  children and their gifts is also known precisely, ahead of time, and 
  the reindeer must weigh in minutes before the flight) is also known 
  with tremendous precision.  His direction of flight is, as you say, 
  essentially east to west.
  All of that, when taken together, means that the momentum vector of 
  Mr Claus and his cargo is known with incredible precision.  An 
  elementary application of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle yields 
  the result that Santa's location, at any given moment on Christmas 
  Eve, is highly imprecise.  In other words, he is "smeared out" over 
  the surface of the earth, analogous to the manner in which an 
  electron is "smeared out" within a certain distance from the nucleus 
  in an atom.  Thus he can, quite literally, be everywhere at any 
  given moment.
  In addition, the relativistic velocities which his reindeer can 
  attain for brief moments make it possible for him, in certain cases, 
  to arrive at some locations shortly before he left the North Pole.  
  Santa, in other words, assumes for brief periods the characteristics 
  of tachyons. I will admit that tachyons remain hypothetical, but 
  then so do black holes, and who really doubts their existence 
A friend just sent me this link which contains lots and lots of rebuttals. People with less of a life than me. Go figure.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 03:49 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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