Is There a Santa Claus?
As a result of an overwhelming lack of requests, and with research help from
that renowned scientific journal
SPY
magazine (January, 1990), I am pleased to present the annual scientific inquiry into
Santa Claus.

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.

There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) 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.

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 751/2
million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once
every 31 hours, plus feeding 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 manmade
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.

The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming
that each child gets nothing more than a mediumsized 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. 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.

353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air
resistance. This will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as
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 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 centrifugal forces 17,500.06
times greater than gravity. A 250pound 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.
Updated at 15:48 EST on Tue Apr 11, 2006