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.
1. No known species of reindeer can fly. However, 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 that only Santa has ever seen.
2. There are 2 billion children (defined as persons under 18) in the world. BUT, since Santa doesn't (appear to) handle the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim children; that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378 million according to the Population Reference Bureau (1990). 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!
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 822.58 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/100th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney (or whatever else necessary to enter the home), 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 75.5 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding, etc. That means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, or a mere 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second -- and a conventional unfettered reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a single Barbie doll or 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 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 (that is the ship, not Her Majesty).
Note from CI: despite repeated annual requests, this journal shall not theorize
the effects of 214,200 flying reindeer and their inevitable poop.
5. Now then: 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's re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy per second. Each. In short, assuming they ever reach cruising speed, they will burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousands of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 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.
I originally found the above on USENET in 1996, ironically in a discussion that had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas or Santa Claus (see alt.fan.mash); a Yahoo! search for 'SPY Magazine' revealed this site:
Hey, I give credit where it's due!
The following was sent to me last year....
REBUTTAL: Several key points are overlooked by this callous, amateurish "study." This is new for 1998.
1) Flying reindeer: As is widely known (due to the excellent historical documentary "Santa Claus is Coming to Town,") the flying reindeer are not a previously unknown species of reindeer, but were in fact given the power of flight due to eating magic feed cord. As is conclusively proven in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (a no-punches-pulled look at life in Santa's village), this ability has bred true in subsequent generations of reindeer--obviously the magic feed corn imprinted their power on a dominant gene sequence within the reindeer DNA strand.
2) Number of households: This figure overlooks two key facts. First of all, the first major schism in the Church split the Eastern Churches, centered in Byzantium, from the Western, which remained centered in Rome. This occurred prior to the Gregorian correction to the Julian calendar. The Eastern churches (currently called Orthodox Churches) do not recognize the Gregorian correction for liturgical events, and their Christmas is, as a result, several days after that of the Western Churches'. Thus, Santa gets two shots at delivering toys.
Secondly, the figure of 3.5 children per household is based on the gross demographic average, which includes households with no children at all. The number of children per household, when figured as an average for households with children, would therefore have to be adjusted upward. Also, the largest single Christian denomination is Roman Catholic, who, as we all know, breed like rabbits (If you don't believe me, ask my four brothers and two sisters--they'll back me up). Due to the predominance of Catholics within Christian households, the total number of households containing Christian children would have to be adjusted downward to reflect the overloading of Catholics beyond a standard deviation from the median. Also, the assertion that each home would contain at least one good child would be reasonable enough if there were in fact an even 3.5 children per household. However, since the number of children per household is distributed integrally, there is a significant number (on the order of several million) of one-child Christian households. Even though only children are notoriously spoiled--and therefore disproportionately inclined toward being naughty--since it's the holidays we'll be generous and give them a fifty-fifty chance of being nice.
This removes one half of the single-child households from Santa's delivery schedule, which has already been reduced by the removal of the Orthodox households from the first delivery run.
3) Santa's delivery run (speed, payload, etc.): These all suffer from the dubious supposition that there is only one Santa Claus. The name "Santa" is obviously either Spanish or Italian, two ethnic groups which are both overwhelmingly Catholic. The last name Claus suggests a joint German/Italian background. His beginnings, battling the Burgermeister Meisterburger, suggest he grew up in Bavaria (also predominantly Catholic). The Kaiser style helmets of the Burgermeister's guards, coupled with the relative isolation of the village, suggest that his youth was at the very beginning of Prussian influence in Germany.
Thus, Santa and Mrs. Claus have been together for well over one hundred years. If you think that after a hundred years of living at the North Pole with nights six months long that they remain childless, you either don't know Catholics or are unaware of the failure rate of the rhythm method. There have therefore been over five generations of Clauses, breeding like Catholics for over one hundred years.
Since they are Catholic, their exponential population increase would obviously have a gain higher than the world population as a whole. There have therefore been more than enough new Santa's to overcome the population increase of the world. So in fact, Santa has an easier time of it now than he did when he first started out.
Santa dead, indeed--some people will twist any statistic to prove "their cynical theory".
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