Date Created: December 20, 1996

OPINION AND OUTLOOK: Santa, Physics, and Rightsizing

- Is there a Santa? -

The question has been researched and here are our findings: Informational articles gathered and transcribed by Phil Schuman


As a result of an overwhelming stack of requests, and with research help from that renown scientific journal SPY magazine (January, 1990) - I am pleased to present the annual scientific inquiry into Santa Claus.

1) 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.

2) There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist cihldren, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.

3) Santa has more than a single night. In fact he 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 Christian household with good children, Santa 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 75-1/2 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, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made 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.

4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.

5) Air resistance problems similar to re-entry. 353,000 tons travelling at 650 miles per second creates enourmous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In conclusion - If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now.


Rebuttal: Several key points are overlooked by this callous, amateurish "study."

1) Flying reindeer: As is widely known (due to the excellent historical documentary "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," the flying reindeer are not a previously unknown species of reindeer, but were in fact given the power of flight due to eating magic acorns. As is conclusively proven in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (a no-punches-pulled look at life in Santa's village), this ability has bred true in subsequent generations of reindeer--obviously the magic acorns imprinted their power on a dominant gene sequence within the reindeer DNA strand. It is also a well known fact that ignorance is bliss, ie. through all physical and aerodynamic laws the bumblebee can't possibly fly...yet the bumblebee doesn't know this.

2) Number of households: This figure overlooks two key facts. First of all, the first major schism in the Church split the Eastern Churches, centered in Byzantium, from the Western, which remained centered in Rome. This occurred prior to the Gregorian correction to the Julian calendar. The Eastern churches (currently called Orthodox Churches) do not recognize the Gregorian correction for liturgical events, and their Christmas is, as a result, several days after that of the Western Churches'. Thus, Santa gets two shots at delivering toys.

Secondly, the figure of 3.5 children per household is based on the gross demographic average, which includes households with no children at all. The number of children per household, when figured as an average for households with children, would therefore have to be adjusted upward. Also, the largest single Christian denomination is Roman Catholic, who, as we all know, breed like rabbits. If you don't believe me, ask my four brothers and two sisters--they'll back me up. Due to the predominance of Catholics within Christian households, the total number of households containing Christian children would have to be adjusted downward to reflect the overloading of Catholics beyond a standard deviation from the median.

Also, the assertion that each home would contain at least one good child would be reasonable enough if there were in fact an even 3.5 children per household. However, since the number of children per household is distributed integrally, there is a significant number (on the order of several million) of one-child Christian households. Even though only children are notoriously spoiled--and therefore disproportionately inclined toward being naughty--since it's the holidays we'll be generous and give them a fifty-fifty chance of being nice. This removes one half of the single-child households from Santa's delivery schedule, which has already been reduced by the removal of the Orthodox households from the first delivery run.

3) Santa's delivery run (speed, payload, etc.): These all suffer from the dubious supposition that there is only one Santa Claus. The name "Santa" is obviously either Spanish or Italian, two ethnic groups which are both overwhelmingly Catholic. The last name Claus suggests a joint German/Italian background. His beginnings, battling the Burgermeister Meisterburger, suggest he grew up in Bavaria (also predominantly Catholic). The Kaiser style helmets of the Burgermeister's guards, coupled with the relative isolation of the village, suggest that his youth was at the very beginning of Prussian influence in Germany. Thus, Santa and Mrs. Claus have been together for well over one hundred years.

If you think that after a hundred years of living at the North Pole with nights six months long that they remain childless, you either don't know Catholics or are unaware of the failure rate of the rhythm method. There have therefore been over five generations of Clauses, breeding like Catholics for over one hundred years. Since they are Catholic, their exponential population increase would obviously have a gain higher than the world population as a whole. There have therefore been more than enough new Santas to overcome the population increase of the world. So in fact, Santa has an easier time of it now than he did when he first started out.

Santa dead, indeed--some people will twist any statistic to "prove" their cynical theory.


'Twas the night before Christmas and Santa's a wreck...
How to live in a world that's politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to "Elves",
"Vertically Challenged" they were calling themselves.

And labor conditions at the north pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul,
Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.

And equal employment had made it quite clear
That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his sleigh;
The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.
And people had started to call for the cops
When they heard sled noises on their roof tops.

Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.
His fur trimmed red suit was called for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.

And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.
For they raised the hackles of those psychological
Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.

No baseball, no football....someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passe;
And Nintendo would rot your entire brains away.

So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed;
He could not figure out what to do next.
He tries to be merry, tried to be gay,
But you've got to be careful with that word today.

His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;
Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.
Something special was needed, a gift that he might
Give to all without angering the left or the right.

A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,
Each group of people, every religion;
Every ethnicity, every hue,
Everyone, everywhere...even you.

So here is that gift, it's price beyond worth ...

"May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth."


Press Release: Organizational Changes at the North Pole.

The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early reindeer retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced, and about other restructuring decisions at the North Pole.

Streamlining was necessary due to the North Pole's loss of dominance of the season's gift distribution business. Home shopping channels and mail order catalogues have diminished Santa's market share. He could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of the profit picture.

The reindeer downsizing was made possible through the purchase of a late model Japanese sled for the CEO's annual trip. Improved productivity from Dasher and Dancer, who summered at the Harvard Business School, is anticipated. Reduction in reindeer will also lessen airborne environmental emissions for which the North Pole has received unfavorable press.I am pleased to inform you that Rudolph's role will not be disturbed. Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole.

Management denies, in the strongest possible language, the earlier leak that Rudolph's nose got that way, not from the cold, but from substance abuse. Calling Rudolph "a lush who was into the sauce and never did pull his share of the load" was an unfortunate comment, made by one of Santa's helpers and taken out of context at a time of year when he is known to be under executive stress.As a further restructuring, today's global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps.

Effective immediately, the following economy measures are to take place in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" subsidiary:

- The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree never turned out to be the cash crop forecasted. It will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance;
- The two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective. In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are therefore eliminated;
- The three French hens will remain intact. After all, everyone loves the French;
- The four calling birds were replaced by an automated voice mail system, with a call waiting option. An analysis is underway to determine who the birds have been calling, how often and how long they talked;
- The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could have negative implications for institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals as well as a mix of T-Bills and high technology stocks appear to be in order;
- The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day is an example of the decline in productivity. Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that from now on every goose it gets will be a good one;
- The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. The function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are on order. The current swans will be retrained to learn some new strokes and therefore enhance their outplacement;
- As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the workforce is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring or a-mulching;
- Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number. This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps;
- Ten Lords-a-leaping is overkill. The high cost of Lords plus the expense of international air travel prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work congressmen. While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant because we expect an oversupply of unemployed congressmen this year;
- Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big. A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music and no uniforms will produce savings which will drop right down to the bottom line;

We can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and other expenses. Though incomplete, studies indicate that stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient. If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved.
Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorney's association seeking expansion to include the legal profession ("thirteen lawyers-a-suing") action is pending.

Lastly, it is not beyond consideration that deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to stay competitive. Should that happen, the Board will request management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the right number. Happy Holidays!

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