Santa Science – Merry Christmas from pH7!

Sintija Jurkevica

On the night of Christmas Eve, Santa Claus delivers presents to the homes of all the good kids, but how does he do it? In this joyous spirit of Christmas, Santa’s gift delivery-system is worthy of scientific investigation.

How does Santa separate the good from the naughty?

With around 2,000,000,000 children worldwide, and approximately 35% parents of those children being Christians, Santa is faced with the problem of observing an impressive number of 700,000,000 children to make the big decision, – whether each child deserves a present or not. Santa may take an example from the current surveillance systems used in tracking human behaviour. Santa may choose to employ Orwellian, high-tech electronic surveillance, which includes monitoring each child using distant electronic tools, like 24-hour cameras and face-recognition systems. Or alternatively Santa could make use of a less high-tech method that depends upon direct observation of children behaviour by human (or elf!) agents.

How many elves does Santa employ to make all the gifts?

Assuming every kid is receiving the appropriate gift on Christmas Eve, Santa has to organise the manufacturing and production of approximately 700,000,000 objects, meaning that on average, 1,923,076 gifts would have to be assembled and packaged every day, for 364 days. Comparing this with LEGO™, employing almost 14,000 workers that end up producing around 220,000 Lego sets per day, Santa is the CEO of an intensive toy company functioning on the shoulders of thousands of elf employees. Based on the numbers of workers LEGO™ are required to employ to meet the demand of Lego sets, Santa would have to employ 128,205 elves to meet requirements of 700,000,000 children.

How powerful are Santa’s reindeers?

If the average kid’s present weighs around 700g, the final weight of a filled Santa’s bag would total a massive 490,000 tonnes. Note, at this point, the weight of Santa and his sleigh is almost negligible compared to the total weight of presents. Assuming Santa is the only person who delivers presents, his delivery system is fully dependant on nine reindeers. Each reindeer has to be able to pull over 54,444 tonnes of presents and generate enough thrust to lift the mass from the ground. Thrust generation is dependent on one of two things, either direct ejection of hot gas, or streaming air under fixed wings. But reindeers don’t have wings or jetpacks – so they must just be magical!

How fast is Santa’s present delivery?

During Christmas Eve, Santa has to fly over the total surface area of the world, which is more or less 510,000,000 km2, and he has 32 hours to complete his Christmas gift delivery. This means that reindeers have to fly at a velocity 4,427,083 m/s, – at 1.5% of speed of light. Although the high speed is not sufficient to cause any increase in mass due to relativity, Santa’s sleigh remains significantly faster than X-15, the aircraft holding official record for the highest speed reached by a manned aircraft at 2,020 m/s.

If there is anything that can be learnt from Santa, it is that he disregards ethics and challenges the laws of physics. In other words, Santa truly does make sure we have a magical Christmas!

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