This was posted on the AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists) newsletter:
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 (except maybe in Japan) 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 there is at least one good child in each.
Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the
different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming 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 stocking, 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 onto the next
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 man
made 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.
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 thousands tons, not counting
Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than
300 pounds. Even granting that the "flying" reindeer can pull 10 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
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 re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of
reindeer would adsorb 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
Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating
from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to
acceleration forces of 17,000 g's. A 250 pound 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.
Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.
Leave it to an engineer to debunk Santa.
(But I still believe!!!)
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Eastman Kodak Company
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7419
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: 716-477-5325 Cell: 716-781-4036 Fax: 716-722-7243