Santa Claus, Flying Reindeer, and Trips Around the World

by Derrick G. Jeter

The United States government, headed up by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), recently published a report on “Santa Claus, Flying Reindeer, and Trips Around the World.” Officials refused to answer questions about their findings, leading many to believe that the U. S. government and NASA are attempting, in the most egregious manner, to debunk a widespread belief in Santa and his ability to transverse the earth in a single night.

For those—children and children at heart—who have been good this past year and believe Santa will visit their home on Christmas Eve may find many of the government’s conclusions disturbing. Read at your own risk.

On Reindeer: No know 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.

On Worldwide Childhood Population: There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. but since Santa doesn’t (apparently) deliver to Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total—378 million children according to the Census 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 home.

On Time, Distance, and Speed: 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 would be the most logical course). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. That is to say, 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 (this calculation assumes that every house has a chimney, which of course they do not, skewing the figure in Santa’s favor), fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, climb 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, we know to be false, but for the purposes of our calculations we’ll 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. This means Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, or 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. A conventional reindeer can run, at top speed, 15 miles per hour.

On Payload: The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child get nothing more than a medium-sized Lego set (approximately 2 pounds), the sleigh must carry 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who by all reports is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that “flying reindeer” (see On Reindeer above) could pull ten times the normal amount of a conventional reindeer, they could not pull the sleigh with eight, or nine, if you include Rudolph, with which Santa is reported to utilize. What would be needed are 214,200 fly reindeer. This increases the payload—not counting the weight of the sleigh—to 353,430 tones. Again, for comparison, this is four times the weight of the luxury cruise ship Queen Elizabeth.

On Air Resistance and Centrifugal Force: Enormous air resistance would be created by 353,430 tons traveling at 650 miles per second—heating the reindeer in the same fashion as the underside of a Space Shuttle re-entering 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 until the reindeer, sleigh, presents, and Santa was one gigantic and brief fireball in the sky. The whole unit would be vaporized within 4.26/1000th of a second. Santa, meanwhile, would be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. Assuming a 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim given popular descriptions), he would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force. Such mass, speed, and force would also create deafening sonic booms in their wake, surely rousing every sleeping child out of their bed, making the whole endeavor a waste of time.

In Conclusion: If Santa ever did deliver presents on Christmas Eve . . . he’s now dead!

My response to this report: “O, ye of little faith!”