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Christmas Cheer

The Physics of Santa 172

Roland Piquepaille writes "If you don't believe that Santa Claus can deliver presents to millions of homes in a single night, Larry Silverberg, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University (NCSU), explains that Santa's society of elves has an understanding of physics and engineering that exceeds our own. In fact, Santa Claus and his crew really can deliver presents in one night because of their advanced knowledge of electromagnetic waves, the space/time continuum, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and computer science. For example, he doesn't carry presents. He uses a nano-toymaker to fabricate toys grown atom by atom inside the children's homes. Very entertaining reading... Here is a link to additional details and pictures of Santa and his elves flying over New Zealand."
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The Physics of Santa

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  • by Swimport ( 1034164 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @01:39PM (#17354386) Homepage
    Ive got a bridge and a Messiah to sell you.
  • Roland (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @01:57PM (#17354508) Homepage
    While this IS technically a Roland story and I should be refusing to post in it (don't be fooled that he has an original link in his post, he still has his ZDNet blog link in there as well) I'd like to take this opportunity to copy/paste one of my favorite Santa posts [] of all time that I found on Slashdot. Props to rev_g33k_101 for this one.

    Santa Claus: An Engineer's Perspective I. There are approximately 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Jehovah's Witnesses, or Buddist religions, this reduces the workload on Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

    II. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with at least one good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, jump out, go down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump in the sleigh, and move on to the next house. (That's why it's really pointless to stay up and wait for him....)

    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 breaks. This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3000 times the speed of sound. For the purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a pokey 75.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.

    III. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child has 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 nothing more than 300 pounds. Even granted that "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or nine of them; Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the sleigh itself, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizibeth (the ship, not the monarch).

    IV. 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance; this would heat up the reindeer in the same fasion as a spacecraft re-entering the 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 and causing deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.2 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reaches 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 per second in .001 seconds, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 G's. A 250 pound Santa (which seem ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pound of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

    V. Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

    Don't forget to click my link and read some of the responses to the original post, they're great. Merry Christmas Slashdot!

  • by partenon ( 749418 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @02:05PM (#17354578) Homepage
    Understanding *how* Santa Claus delivers the gifts in Christmas Eve can help us improve our engineering. Where do you think the idea behind Google Search [] came from? Doesn't the pigeons idea looks like Santa's carriers?
  • Roland! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Wellington Grey ( 942717 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @02:29PM (#17354736) Homepage Journal
    I must say, I've never been one of the Roland haters on slashdot, but then I never knew that he wears orange glasses with a matching shirt []

    -Grey []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 24, 2006 @02:35PM (#17354782)
    > You're not, you're floating in a huge BS-Field right now.

    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from bullshit."

    I noticed the article doesn't explain how Santa can simultaneously appear at 30,000 shopping malls!
  • by LGagnon ( 762015 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @03:32PM (#17355080)
    This article seems quite preposterous. As Richard Dawkins points out, belief in Santa is unscientific. []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 24, 2006 @04:20PM (#17355334)
    May I have a copy of the California, Female, 21 - 25 year old, 5'2 - 5'5, 110 - 125 pound, blonde, naughty list?
  • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @04:20PM (#17355338) Homepage Journal
    Rudolph the Red-shift Reindeer.
  • by shoemilk ( 1008173 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @09:06PM (#17356822) Journal
    Yeah! That's it! You tell them, those liars! I'm so totally with you man! The hell if I'm going to let my kids read fiction!
  • by foodforthought ( 1043384 ) on Sunday December 24, 2006 @11:48PM (#17357530)
    Well, good luck to you on judgment day.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun