The Science of Santa
December 25 is Father Christmas’s big day, giving gifts and presents to all mankind. But just how does he do it? Callum Dinnett discusses the science behind Santa’s night out.
How does Santa deliver all his presents? It’s quiet the Christmas quandary. Depending on how close you hold to stories about Santa, there may be multiple explanations as to how he can deliver presents around the world.
Over Christmas, Santa will have to visit around 500 million households. However, this all has to be done within approximately 48 hours due to time zones, variations in nighttime hours and, rather importantly, some presents being delivered for the 7th January instead of the 25th December as some people celebrate on Epiphany instead of the conventional Christmas day.
If you stick to the classic story of one Santa on a sleigh, Santa has approximately 300 microseconds per house, meaning the sleigh would have to, with near instantaneous acceleration, be moving at about 2,200 kilometres per second! This means there would have to be some way of dissipating trillions of joules of heat each second, otherwise Santa, reindeer and sleigh would vaporise due to the massive air resistance.
Santa has approximately 300 microseconds per house, meaning the sleigh would have to be moving at about 2,200 kilometres per second!
So, expect some significant technological advance to sleigh, or some biological modification to Santa and reindeer to deal with these intense forces, as it’s far greater than any known person has experienced. However, intense speeds could work in Santa’s favour as time would run slower at these speeds, thanks to special relativity.
Alternatively, stealth could work in Santa’s favour. According to quantum physics, if Santa was not directly observed in one place, then there could be multiple versions of the same Santa and reindeer, delivering presents simultaneously all across the world. Instead, Santa could use quantum mechanics to ‘tunnel’ across the world, through a wormhole, which is not possible through modern technologies
Regardless of which theory you take to be true, there will need to be some technological advance from any modern technologies to even have a chance of coming close to Santa’s mythical journey, yet, for many children, Santa manages to get presents to them every single year. So, this Christmas, enjoy the holiday and look out for shooting stars which may be Santa’s sleigh speeding across the sky.