Father Christmas, Santa or Coke’s best marketing campaign I think we can all agree does an exceptional job every year of delivering all those goodies to all of those people. But how does he do it? What problems does he face? Is his belly like a bowl full of jelly? Hmmm, well, short of asking the man himself we know that physics won’t lie. So, before we get into it we must establish a few things. First, he is real, if you disagree go away, second, reindeers can fly and three, Santa delivers to people of any age (He will be visiting me forever)
this would allow the big guy to deliver all of the gifts and eat all of the cookies!!
Okay, so let’s start with the numbers. As I am writing this according to the worldometer the current population of the world is 7,466,337,557. Next, according to spy magazine and reindeerland.org, 15% of people would receive nothing (the big man put them on the naughty list) and only 45% of the world will actually celebrate Christmas (including Christians and atheists alike). This means Santa has to deliver to around 2,855,874,116 people.
We can reduce this further by saying that the average house has 4 people so Santa only has to visit 713,968,526 individual houses. But also, because of the earth’s time zones if Santa starts at the International Date Line he has 48 hours to deliver all of the prezzies, meaning he has to make 4131.76 visits per second. Meaning he has to travel at almost 3,000,000 meters per second. That’s a bit of a problem. Just to give this some kind of perspective, this is quicker than the escape velocity of the galaxy!
But how can this be done? Let’s look at the forces involved. Yes, he’s a fat jolly fella and yea he has nine fully grown reindeer pulling his sled but the vast majority of the weight would come from the presents. If we say on average each person would receive around one kilogram worth of presents that means that sleigh would weigh around2,800,000,000 kg (Almost five time that of the heaviest oil tankers in the world).
Having a 2.8 billion kilogram object hurtling through the sky at 3,000,000 meters per second is dangerous and creates something of a problem for the Christmas team if they don’t want to be reduced to a puddle of plasma. The air simply cannot move out of the way fast enough traveling at these speeds so unless they were more heat resistant than a space shuttle and were using a propulsion system centuries ahead of anything we have, this isn’t viable.
The only other solution I can see takes us back to the Christmas elves. They must be a team of the most advanced researchers the world has ever seen, working year round on Einstein’s theory of relativity and how to in fact warp space time. Now this is quite a mind boggling topic that I can’t explain in a few lines but for this it might be helpful to think of space and time as a network of nodes and connectors laid out over a sphere, each node a place in space and each connector an amount of time.
He will be visiting me forever!
What the elves help Santa do is to bend the connectors around Santa, contracting the nodes and connectors in front of him and expanding the ones behind him. This way he can move exceedingly fast, relative to the earth, without moving, almost like existing in a bubble of normal space but different time. Make sense? Probably not. But this would allow the big guy to deliver all of the gifts and eat all of those cookies you left out for him too. The one problem with this is that it would require more energy than that in the observable universe. Where can he get this from you ask? He’s magic, obviously.
However he manages to do it, I’m glad he does. If you want to read more”science of” type articles try this one where our own editor Ayesha Tandon looks at the science of origami!!