In the public domain on the Internet
|Published in the December 2001 Issue of Anvil Magazine
After much research by the Severson Foundation, the following facts of Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, the Big Elf of the North, have been investigated and proven. Does Santa Claus exist? Using the following laws of physics and anatomy, along with currently published governmental information, we have drawn a conclusion.
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 actually seen.
2. There are two billion children (persons under the age of 18) in the world. But, since Santa doesn't appear to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces those to whom he must deliver presents 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 is 91.8 million homes. One must assume that there is at least one good child in each household.
3. If he travels east to west, which seems logical, Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth. This works out to 822.5 visits per second. At this rate, 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 presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, fly back up the chimney, get into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of the 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which is, of course, false, but for the purposes of calculations acceptable), there is a distance of .78 miles between each household, creating a total trip of 75.5 million miles. This does not include stops to do what most living creatures must do at least once every 31 hours, as well as feeding the reindeer, etc.
All of this means that St. Nick'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 in existence, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a pokey 27.4 miles per second. A conventional reindeer can run 15 miles per hour, tops.
4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. If each child gets nothing more then a medium-sized Leg-o set (2 pounds each), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa himself, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even grant-ing that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) can pull ten times the normal amount, the job cannot be done with eight (or even nine, if Rudolph enters these calculations). In order to move the sleigh, 214,200 reindeer will be required. This itself increases the payload-still not counting the weight of the sleigh itself-to 353,430 tons.
5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. The reindeer will heat up in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will each absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second! In short, they will burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. At this rate, the entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousands 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.
In conclusion: If Santa ever did deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now.