Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Science 19: Science of Santa Claus

In the run up to Christmas, Communicate Science offers you 20 Christmas Science Facts. We'll post one every day until the 25th December. The following has been posted in many other places before, but its worth reading again...

Science of Santa Claus

How do Santa's reindeer fly?
No known 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.

How does Santa reach everyone?
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 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each household with good children has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, 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 75½ million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.

This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest manmade vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second — a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

Einstein and Santa Claus?
Physicist Gaute Einevoll has proposed a novel theory:
"We are talking about moving matter, and no one had more knowledge about matter than Albert Einstein. Do I need to point out that the dishevelled physicist reminds many of Santa Claus? Einstein published his special theory of relativity in 1905 and his general theory of relativity in 1916, but after Coca-Cola more or less defined Santa’s ‘look’ in 1930, Einstein didn’t publish that much more. I have wondered if that’s because Einstein became Santa," speculates Einevoll.

He believes that the reason that Einstein never was able to link together quantum theory and relativity is due to the fact that the famous tussled head was busy in secret helping Santa to become a kind of “Quanta Claus”.


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