Is there a Santa Clause? The statistical evidence and physics analysis are not compelling.

**1.** No known species of reindeer can fly. There are
300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified,
however, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does
not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer...which only Santa has
seen, incidentally.

**2.** There are 2 billion children (persons under the age
of 18) in the world. But since Santa doesn't appear to handle
most Muslim, Hindu, 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, which is quite low by Third World
standards, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there is 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 fro
each household with good children that he visits, Santa has
1/1000th of a second to:

- park
- hop out of the sleigh
- grab the bag of presents out of the back seat
- find and 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
- get airborne, and
- find the next house at which to leave presents.

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 between households, or a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting stops to what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and watering the reindeer, etc. We will overlook the need to return to the North Pole to reload the sleigh. 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, the Magellan space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second - a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour for short periods of time.

**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 the "flying reindeer" (see
point #1 above) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, one could
not do the job with eight, or even nine.

One would need 214,000 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparative purposes, this is over three times the fully loaded combat weight of a modern aircraft carrier, surely exceeding most building code specs for residential house roofs, at least in the United States.

**5.** 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second
creates enormous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up
in the same fashion as a spacecraft reentering the Earth's
atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3
quintillion joules of energy. Per second...each.

In short, they will burst into flames almost instantly, exposing the reindeer behind them, in turn, to the same heating. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second.

**6.** The sleigh, owing to its mass, non-aerodynamic form
and speed, would create a devastating sonic boom, making sleep by
all the good little boys and girls on Christmas eve virtually out
of the question(although this may explain why so few children
really DO sleep on Christmas eve). Santa, meanwhile, would be
subjected to acceleration forces 17,500.06 times the force of
gravity (for comparison, an experienced tactical jet pilot can
sustain approximately 9 "g's" before becoming
incapacitated). A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim)
would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of
force.

Conclusion: A fairly liberal statistical analysis of the physical aspects of the problems associated with the method of operation attributed to Santa Claus' Christmas present delivery drill every Christmas eve leads one to conclude that either:

- Santa is an extraterrestrial
- Santa is far more skilled in quantum mechanics than Albert Einstein
- Santa was incinerated by atmospheric heating in the course of duty years ago, or
- You just can't trust statistics or statisticians.

I opt for the latter.

Have a Merry Christmas and don't tell the kids.

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Last modified: January 12, 1997