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The Joke Book
SANTA CLAUS: An Engineer's Perspective
I. There are approximately two billion children (persons under
18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of
Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist religions, this reduces the
workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million
(according to the Population Reference Bureau). At an average
(census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108
million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in
each.
II. Santa has about 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
967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian
household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a
second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill
the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree,
eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the
chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house.
Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly
distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be
false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we
are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of
75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This
means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second  3,000
times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest
manmade vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4
miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best)
15 miles per hour.
III. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element.
Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized
Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand
tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional
reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the
"flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job
can't be done with eight or even nine of them; Santa would need
360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the
weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven
times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the
monarch).
IV. 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates
enormous air resistance  this would heat up the reindeer in
the same fashion as a spacecraft reentering the earth's
atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3
quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they
would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the
reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their
wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26
thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached
the fifth house on his trip. Not that it matters, however, since
Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 miles
per second in .001 seconds, would be subjected to accelerational
forces of 17,500 G. A 250pound Santa (which seems ludicrously
slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015
pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and
reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.
V. Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.
Merry Christmas!
