I got this in an email

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).

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 at an

average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, which comes to 108

million homes, presuming there is at least 1 good child in each. 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 on to the next house.

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 or 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 thousand 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 monarch). A mass of nearly 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 his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating

from a dead stop to 650 miles/second in .001 seconds, would be subjected to

acceleration forces of 17,000 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems

ludicrously slim considering all the high calorie snacks he must have

consumed over the years) 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.

Merry Christmas!

Jim

(No, I didn't write it. I got it from Jack Ganssle's Embedded Muse

newsletter, and I'm sure it's been around for quite some time.)

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