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Is Santa Claus Real? – A Look at the Physics

Posted in Geeking Out, Humor, Technology by engtech on December 08, 2006

No idea who the original author is, but this is a good take on the physics of 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 children, 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 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 our 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 an 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 purpose of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75� million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding, etc. This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 time 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, the conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting the “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) 353,000 tons travelling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance – this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft 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.



49 Responses

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  1. sherpa said, on December 09, 2006 at 12:14 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. :D But them, I AM a physics geek.

    Thanks, and nice blog. :)

  2. engtech said, on December 09, 2006 at 12:20 am

    Thanks Sherpa!

    Yeah, I normally don’t cut-and-paste lists like this, but I figured it was geeky enough to match my normal content.

  3. raincoaster said, on December 09, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Spy did an analysis like this years ago, and it was illustrated with a marvelous pic of reindeer burning up as they tore through the atmosphere at the speed neccessary to deliver all the presents that night. I’ll see if I can dig it up.

  4. engtech said, on December 10, 2006 at 4:04 am

    Actually, Spy might be the origin. I got this in an email forward.

    Yup, Spy magazine is the original. January, 1990.

  5. Shirley said, on December 10, 2006 at 4:45 am

    Hey, I really enjoyed this…be back later to steal it for my site. Maybe I can also find the scorching reindeer.


    shirley Buxton

  6. Andrew said, on December 10, 2006 at 9:22 am

    Sweet post. Love the stats. Nice zing on Queen Elizabeth :)

  7. stjarna67 said, on December 10, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    Maybe Santa has some technology that we don’t know about yet. There is no mention of the possibility of intradimensional travel. The laws of physics, as we know them, apply to our universe. Doesn’t ‘M Theory’ include the existence of other dimensions? Wouldn’t those other dimensions be subject to other physical laws for those who can exist in them?

    In other words, I can still believe in Santa, right?


  8. raincoaster said, on December 10, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    Traced the author anyway: Richard Waller.

    Seen Schroedinger’s Reindeer?

  9. engtech said, on December 11, 2006 at 1:15 am

    @stjarna67: People believe in Scientology.

    You can believe in Santa.

  10. stjarna67 said, on December 11, 2006 at 3:45 am


    Santa is much more believable than Scientology. Besides, Santa doesn’t bad mouth psychiatry or the use of meds…and he wasn’t in Top Gun. He has so much more going for him.


  11. sabrina said, on December 11, 2006 at 4:44 am

    their is no such thing as sants claus

  12. Mike Roberts said, on December 11, 2006 at 9:20 am

    Did you forget to mention the twinkle in his eye and the duplicator at the North Pole on purpose?

  13. aristianto said, on December 11, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    353,000 tons travelling at 650 miles per second?? Santa Lightning speed.. :)

  14. engtech said, on December 11, 2006 at 7:45 pm


    But Santa also wasn’t in Risky Business… so that’s a minus.

    @Mike Roberts:

    Hey, I still want to get the stuff on my christmas list.

  15. jaybird said, on December 11, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    That’s kinda funny how the background changes for this post

  16. crimsondevotchka said, on December 15, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    i definitely believe in santa, it’s the only reason the cookies at home are disappearing.

  17. engtech said, on December 15, 2006 at 8:40 pm

    I’m going to have to try that excuse.

  18. Silvia SOsa said, on December 17, 2006 at 5:51 am

    Is santa real please tell me.
    i have tried alot of things but i just cant figure it out i belive but people tell me that Santa aint real please tell me. Just give me a sign about Santa please :)

  19. Master_E said, on December 17, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    Haha really funny =)

  20. MARK said, on December 17, 2006 at 7:37 pm

    so is he real

  21. Gabe said, on December 18, 2006 at 5:58 am

    Santa Claus is real and if you don’t believe in him you better be stupid because it is your fault if you don’t believe in him bcause I do!

  22. Lizzy said, on December 19, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    So are you saying he is real or fake?

  23. engtech said, on December 19, 2006 at 7:48 pm

    Maybe this will help answer the question: http://www.santaisreal.com/

  24. Emma said, on December 21, 2006 at 7:42 am

    This is wonderful. I do love physics. AND santa. ;D

  25. Halee said, on December 23, 2006 at 4:03 am

    I love santa Claus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if he was real i dont no if he is or not???? is he???

  26. Nicole said, on December 23, 2006 at 4:04 am

    i no he is not real!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i cant believe u guys actually do!!!!!!!!!!

  27. Halee said, on December 23, 2006 at 4:05 am

    yes he is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i luv him!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Justin said, on December 23, 2006 at 4:10 am

    but he has been told about for a long time….. u would think he would be dead by now.

  29. joe blogg said, on December 23, 2006 at 8:42 am

    Quality post that.

  30. epsilon289 said, on December 24, 2006 at 6:37 am

    Interesting viewpoint… :D

    Is there honestly a child out there who’s been “good” for an entire year? According to my observances of human nature (in children and in adults), the chances are extremely thin. There may not be anyone left on the good list, depending on Santa’s gift-giving policy. He might have……retired.

    :D Anyway, Merry Christmas.

  31. Lucy said, on December 24, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    I have a lot of proof that Santa is not real, first of all, Santa’s name on the presents is in my mom or dad’s hand writing and second the presents that say santa’s name on them have the same wraping paper that my parents bought. Lastly, one year my grandma told mt bro. to eat the cookies and milk while I was still asleep! Santa is not real!!!

  32. MK1 said, on December 25, 2006 at 12:53 am

    Why doesn’t one of us just stay up all night, if no one comes, he’s real, if your mom secretively walks in, jump up & say, “I knew it!”

    The thing I find suspicious is indeed the fact it’s impossible unless he has super human technology & if he’s real, why is he so secretive?

  33. Deazy said, on December 25, 2006 at 12:55 am

    Well MK1 has a point but last year I was santa for the family, staying up all night wrapping presents. Wikipedia says he is a myth.

  34. corey said, on December 25, 2006 at 2:45 am

    ok santa IS REAL do you really think norad and every1 who tracks santa and all the storywrites would waste there time writing about a “myth” Santa is magical you know how people sayo magic isnt real well how do they know that for a fact magic is just about as real as santa

  35. MK1 said, on December 25, 2006 at 3:00 am

    I found the site that had the idea for NORAD, it’s to help get the kids to bed…

  36. Brittney said, on December 25, 2006 at 6:05 am

    this made me so upset, you ruined my christmas im only 13.
    Thank alot this is disgraceful to right about this.

  37. balpreet said, on December 25, 2006 at 8:17 am

    santa claus is real everyone!!

  38. Santa V’s Physics « Thoughts & Opinions said, on December 25, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    […] I was reading on a wordpress blog, engtech about an article on Santa. I found it quite funny, using Physics to figure out if being Santa is even possible. Check it out […]

  39. MK1 said, on December 25, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    We’re all santa claus!

  40. Jaana said, on December 25, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    Regards from Finland!


  41. Asif Anwar said, on December 26, 2006 at 1:20 am

    Nice statistics!

    But there is one thing I would like to share.

    If Santa would travel the world from East to West, by the time he reaches Europe, USA or Canada would you see him bright red and white dress? or Maroon and Black Dress? :-)

  42. Chelsea said, on December 26, 2006 at 4:57 am

    wow! I really loved ready that

  43. Chelsea said, on December 26, 2006 at 4:58 am


  44. Daijinryuu said, on December 26, 2006 at 5:14 am

    Wow. I heard some of these statistics and physical explanations, but now I more of the whole story. No one remembers to shrink the number down only to Christian children, lol.

  45. cheapereoffice said, on December 26, 2006 at 5:16 am

    I just wonder though how much energy would be needed to actually lift SANTA into the sky. I am guessing he would need to feed his rain dear a lot of food or maybe they have a nuclear reactor core inside them and the are made with the same substance as that tunnelling muchine in the film “THE CORE” dubbed “Unobtainium”. Its indestructible.


  46. MARY said, on February 26, 2007 at 8:46 am


  47. soph-mister said, on March 01, 2007 at 10:15 am

    luv it!THANKS SO MUCH!hahahaha

  48. Mimo said, on March 08, 2007 at 6:41 am

    strike on all of you who say santa is real, are you kidding me???… There is no such thing as Santa, he is a myth for God’s sakes. Want me to prove it? Ok then.. He is based on the character Saint Nikolas who lived a while ago and was a man of charity and kindess, he helped the poor and gave presents and other things to people in need, PLUS HE WORE RED BISHOP CLOTHING.. dont believe me? look it up fruits, and 1 more thing, christmas is suppose to be celebrating Jesus (PBUH) b-day not freaking santa clause, what happened to you guys?, forget santa , focus on jesus pbuh goodness, santa was st.nikolas, if you still believe in him and you are 13+ please grow up and dont ever mention that to someone else lol

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