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IS THERE A SANTA CLAUS? (Spy Magazine, January 1990)

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 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 anoint, 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 traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous 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.

(story originally attributed to Richard Waller)



From: hjiwa#NoSpam.nor.chevron.com Canonical List Of Holiday Humor

Rebuttal: (Jim Mantle, Waterloo Maple Software)

Come on, ya gotta believe! I mean, if you can handle flying furry animals,

then it's only a small step to the rest.

For example;

1) As admitted, it is possible that a flying reindeer can be found. I

would agree that it would be quite an unusual find, but they might exist.

2) You've relied on cascading assumptions. For example, you have assumed

a uniform distribution of children across homes. Toronto/Yorkville, or

Toronto/Cabbagetown, or other yuppie neighbourhoods, have probably less

than the average (and don't forget the DINK and SINK homes (Double Income

No Kids, Single Income No Kids)), while the families with 748 starving

children that they keep showing on Vision TV while trying to pick my pocket

would skew that 15% of homes down a few percent.

3) You've also assumed that each home that has kids would have at least

one good kid. What if anti-selection applies, and homes with good kids tend

to have more than their share of good kids, and other homes have nothing

except terrorists in diapers? Let's drop that number of homes down a few

more percent.

4) Santa would have to Fedex a number of packages ahead of time, since he

would not be able to fly into Air Force Bases, or into tower-controlled areas

near airports. He's get shot at over certain sections of the Middle East, and

the no-fly zones in Iraq, so he'd probably use DHL there. Subtract some more


5) I just barely passed Physics and only read Stephen Hawking's book

once, but I recall that there is some Einsteinian Theory that says time

does strange things as you move faster. In fact, when you go faster than

the speed of light time runs backward, if you do a straight line

projection, connect the dots and just ignore any singularity you might find

right at the speed of light. And don't say you can't go faster than the

speed of light because I've seen it done on TV. Jean-Luc doesn't have

reindeer but he does have matter-antimatter warp engines and a holodeck and

that's good enough for me.

So Santa could go faster than light, visit all the good children which

are not uniformly distributed by either concentration in each home or by

number of children per household, and get home before he left so he can

digest all those stale cookies and warm milk yech.

6) Aha, you say, Jean-Luc has matter-antimatter warp engines, Santa only

has reindeer, where does he get the power to move that fast!

You calculated the answer! The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3

quintillion joules of energy. Per second. Each. This is an ample supply of

energy for the maneuvering, acceleration, etc, that would be required of the

loaded sleigh. The reindeer don't evaporate or incinerate because of this

energy, they accelerate. What do you think they have antlers for, fighting over

females? Think of antlers as furry solar array panels.

7) If that's not enough, watch the news on the 24th at 11 o'clock. NORAD

(which may be one of the few government agencies with more than 3 initials

in it's name and therefore it must be more trustworthy than the rest)

tracks Santa every year and I've seen the radar shots of him approaching my

house from the direction of the North Pole. They haven't bombarded him yet,

so they must believe too, right?

Yet another rebuttal to the 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.

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 the Western Churches'. 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 are 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

towards 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.

Yet another rebuttal:


From: egreen#NoSpam.nyc.pipeline.com (Edward Green)

5) That's nonsense. I repeated the calculation, and the correct figure is

17,500.03 times gravity. How can we place belief when such an implausibly

high figure is accepted! The entire concept is obviously deeply flawed and

arises from incorrect method!

Besides, Santa simply realizes all of his alternate quantum states at once.

Everybody knows that.

People keep defending the existence of Santa Claus:


From: Jerome Elisha <jpse57#NoSpam.gte.net>

Surely the 'esteemed' professional making the analysis means 'forces of

acceleration', and not "centrifugal forces" as stated. Furthermore, to

accept the ability of reindeer to defy the law of gravity and then bind

them to the remaining laws of physics is an error in argument.

The assertion ignores empirical data - Santa does exist: one can see

him often during the months leading up to the Big Day. Indeed, it is a

frequent occurrence to see him on multiple street corners, or in front

of several businesses, at the same time. Either A) Santa has many

helpers, or B ) Santa is capable of numerous manifestations. In either

case, the acceleration arguments above are not valid, since the

multiplicity of Santas (manifestations or helpers) could easily handle

smaller portions of the task with time left over for cookies and milk.

Arguments A) and B ) are both are supported by the different guises he

sports in various countries (Santa Claus, Sinter Klaus, Kris Kringle, et


and by his acknowledged ability to "see you when you're sleeping; he

knows when you're awake". The decision between A) or B ) is left as a

proof for the student.

And yet another rebuttal:


From: Lorenzo Sadun <sadun#NoSpam.fireant.ma.utexas.edu>

I wrote this rebuttal to the physics of santa analysis back in 1993:

If you're going to criticise Santa Claus on physical grounds, you may at

least do it right.

The payload calculations are nonsense. Adding, say, 1000 stops back at the

North Pole for reloading adds only a few percent to the entire distance

covered, while reducing the payload by a factor of 1000. This is clearly

the way to go.

The nonuniform distribution of children has a tremendous effect on the

routing. With sensible routing, the average distance from a good child to

the next good child is only a couple hundred feet in suburban conditions

(this is clearly higher in the country, but is much less in, say, New York

City). With only .05 miles between average good children, Santa need only

travel at Mach 200, just a little faster than Ulysses. This reduces the

force of air resistance by a factor of 200, and the power absorbed by the

reindeer by 3000.

(Of course, if Santa stops to give coal to bad children it could slow

things down a bit. But it appears that increasing population has made

Santa give up that trick. When was the last time you heard of anybody

getting a lump of coal?)

We all saw the pictures of a smart bomb falling through an Iraqi smokestack

during the Gulf War. Clearly Santa uses the same technology for toys and

chimneys. By dropping, say, 100 toys at a time from high altitude, Santa

can reduce his speed by another factor of 10. While still supersonic, this

is now slightly less than orbital velocity, sparing Santa and his team the

trauma of extreme centrifugal force.

Santa's trip IS a remarkable feat of aeronautics, but please don't say it's


Does anybody wish to make proof or disproof these assertions? -JV


From: Merv <mcripps2#NoSpam.home.com>

As a result of an overwhelming lack of requests, and with research help

from that renowned scientific journal SPY magazine (January, 1990) -- I am

pleased to present the annual scientific inquiry into Santa Claus.

The analysis you sent me about the death of Santa Claus, based on classical

physics, is seriously flawed owing to its neglect of quantum phenomena that

become significant in his particular case. As it happens, the terminal

velocity of a reindeer in dry December air over the Northern Hemisphere

(for example) is known with tremendous precision. The mass of Santa and

his sleigh (since the number of children and their gifts is also known

precisely, ahead of time, and the reindeer must weigh in minutes before the

flight) is also known with tremendous precision. His direction of flight

is, as you say, essentially east to west.

All of that, when taken together, means that the momentum vector of

Mr. Claus and his cargo is known with incredible precision. An elementary

application of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle yields the result that

Santa's location, at any given moment on Christmas Eve, is highly

imprecise. In other words, he is "smeared out" over the surface of the

earth, analogous to the manner in which an electron is "smeared out" within

a certain distance from the nucleus in an atom. Thus he can, quite

literally, be everywhere at any given moment.

In addition, the relativistic velocities which his reindeer can attain for

brief moments make it possible for him, in certain cases, to arrive at some

locations shortly before he left the North Pole. Santa, in other words,

assumes for brief periods the characteristics of tachyons. I will admit

that tachyons remain hypothetical, but then so do black holes, and who

really doubts their existence any more?

Yours sincerely,

E.B. Davis, Ph.D.


From: eugene#NoSpam.dynagen.co.za (Eugene Griessel)

Physics refutes this. From "New Scientist" December 1989:

In Search of Schrodinger's Reindeer.

With the festive season upon us, many scientific minds will yet again

be attempting to solve that perennial chestnut, the Travelling Santa

Problem (or TSP). This problem was first brought to our attention by

the child prodigy, Vernon P. Templeman, in his seminal paper "Please

may I have a bike for Christmas, Daddy" (J. Appl. Window Shopping,

December 1988, vol 7, p 1-122).

In simple terms, the problem boils down to one of speed. How can

Father Christmas visit the homes of all the children in the world in a

single night, albeit 24 hours long? Templeman demonstrated that the

classical (sequential) explanation forces us to invoke

faster-than-light travel, which is somewhat at odds with current


Thus, he argued, we should infer that the Father Christmas effect does

not really exist. This contentious hypothesis was the subject of much

debate at a recent symposium held at the Santa Fe Institute for

Present Research.

Our initial thoughts were that Templeman had over-estimated the size

of the problem, forgetting that Santa only visits good children. This

would reduce the number of visits by a factor of order 10^9.

However, a simple back-of-the-lab-coat calculation shows that this

renders the problem no more tractable. This threw suspicion on the use

of classical physics. At this stage, the teachings of our old mentor,

Erwin Schroedinger, came back to us ("Famous people what we claim to

have known, honest", by Matthew Davies and Martin Slaughter, Annals of

Physics, 1983, vol 12, pp 379-381). From a detailed study of reported

phenomena, it became apparent that Santa shared many of the

characteristics of elementary particles, suggesting a quantum

mechanical interpretation of his behaviour. We have since developed

this theory, and are confident that a quantum mechanical model of

Santa Claus allows many of his observed properties to be explained,

and several interesting predictions to be made.

Clearly, viewing Santa as a waveform removes the apparent paradox of

his "presence" being measured in several locations within a short

interval of time. As the waveform collapses down in a specific

location (attracted, we suggest, by the Goodness Quantum number of

the recumbent child) it becomes perfectly valid to state that a

"visitation" has occurred.

However, our calculations suggest that the process of measurement (for

example, turning on the bedroom light) will almost certainly lead to a

localised, space-time instability which, in turn, will cause the

waveform to relax and render detection almost impossible.

Once again, this ties in with the experimental evidence that Father

Christmas is rarely caught delivering. Indeed, on those few occasions

when a sighting has been claimed in the literature ("Mummy, mummy,

there's a strange man in my bedroom" by S. T. U. Peedo, Journal of

Sleepless Nights, 1979, vol 5, p 35), closer scrutiny has often

revealed it to be an imposter wearing a red cloak and beard.

Moreover, the quantum mechanical model predicts that energies involved

in a waveform collapse will result in the emission of a jet of

sub-atomic particles. Studies of bedroom carpets in the vicinity of

alleged sightings, using an X-mass spectrometer, have often revealed

evidence of mince pion activity; though these have usually been

Hoovered up.

One of the most appealing aspects of our theory is the manner in which

it allows the most likely sites for visitation to be estimated. These

may be identified from the first derivative of the expectation value


d (Spot) |


d (Fireplace) | night

It turns out that the distribution of household chimneys is exactly

that required to act as a diffraction grating for objects of Santa's

predicted wavelengths, focusing the zeroth order onto the bedroom

floor below ("Chimchimmeny, chimchinny, chimchin cheroo", by Bert,

Mar. Popp. 1969).

Yet another predication which agrees with commonly reported

observations concerns the Christmas Stocking effect. Within

the general theory, the stocking would be expected to act as an

infinite potential well, momentarily capturing the Santa waveform.

The resonance within the stocking is predicted to transfer energy from

any batteries within the well (causing them to run out by Boxing Day)

before collapsing back down to a new ground state characterised by

a tangerine in the toe.

Apart from the successes reported above, the theory makes a number of

predictions about rather low probability events; that is, events

expected to occur in fewer than one hundred homes in the world each

year (for example, a full night's sleep for parents of under-8s; no

clothes given as presents; fairy lights still working from last year).

In order to collect the huge volume of data needed to assess these

rare events, we have decided to appeal to the scientific community for


Well as the few observations available fit the theory, a detailed

experiment to provide quantltatlve.support is now necessary. This

will require a vast amount of data to be collected with observations

from as many global locations as possible.

New Scientist's readers are, therefore, asked to maintain a Yule log

of the events in their domestic laboratories and to send their

results to the authors via the magazine.

Participants are requested to make a note of the following:

(1) Their children's Goodness Quantum number;

(2) The approximate dimensions of their bedroom;

(3) Whether Santa visits and, if so, at what time;

(4) Their address and galactic bspace coordinates (or postcode);

(5) Any evidence of Charm or Strangeness;

(6) Whether Santa is seen to be spinning (needed to check the "No L"


(7) The number of presents left;

(8) The colour of his reindeer's nose (often quoted as red when seen

moving away at speed, but unknown in its rest frame).

On a note of caution, participants are urged not to try to localise

Santa as the delta p. delta x equals or is greater than h

relationship suggests that the energies involved could demolish a

timber frame building.

At a time when Europe is leading the world in fundamental physics

research we hope that this knotty problem can be resolved with this

experiment. The Americans are not far behind, with Senate

approval for the $12 trillion Turkey/ Anti-Turkey Synchronous

Santatron. Let us make sure we cook their goose before

they foil our efforts.


Matthew Davies and Martin Slaughter are physicists

working in the computer industry.


From: "Brian Hansen" <iblis#NoSpam.rrk.kollegienet.dk>

It is very clear to me, that Santa is not dead. He is unemployed.

In the Evangelium of Markus, it states that it is harder for a rich man to

get into heaven, than it is for at camel to pass through the eye of a

needle. Today, we are by far more rich, than they were when the bible was



Responses from first-year biology students to the Santa essay.

Basically, a normal reindeer, even if it could run/fly at the speed needed,

would be vaporized in .473 thousandths of a second. For Santa's job, each

of his nine reindeer has to carry 39,270 tons, fly for 31 hours at 650

miles per second, and absorb 2955.33 quintillion joules of energy per trip

each! These are some serious reindeer. I would say that natural selection

has provided them with a skin not unlike the composite material used for

the space shuttle. Their cell metabolism has speeded up so much they

release enough heat to create a nifty Star Trek force field around them,

and there's probably enough left over to protect fatso in the sled,

too. And they still have enough energy for reindeer games after the night

is over with (you know what kind of physical attractions can form during

long road trips).

Santa's reindeer can travel faster than ordinary reindeer because Santa

gives them a special enzyme additive to their reindeer chow on Christmas

eve. Now when the reindeer metabolize glucose, instead of getting 36 ATP

per glucose, they get 36 quintillion molecules of ATP. This makes them able

to to pull Santa's sleigh at a speed of 650 miles per second. Since their

internal metabolism is so high, the heat created from air resistance

doesn't affect them. 14.3 quintillion joules of energy is nothing compared

to the amount of internal energy in the form of ATP. There is one special

reindeer that Santa gives more of this enzyme to because this reindeer has

to lead all of the others. In fact, there is so much ATP produced in this

reindeer that it concentrates in his nose, causing his nose to glow like a

light bulb.

Natural selection would have allowed Santa's reindeer to grow a thick, hard

outer layer, and they would have to be perfectly spherical to endure the

pressure of their flight. It is easy for them to deal with the immense

weight of the sleigh because they propel themselves upward and onward with

very strong methane emissions from their digestive tract.

One of the most mystical and interesting aspects of Santa Claus are his

reindeer. One hypothesis to explain the evolution of these special reindeer

could be this: since all living things adapt to their surroundings,

obviously these reindeer have made adaptations to living at the North

Pole. There are many ice cliffs in the North Pole, and many of the deer

kept falling off. However, some of the reindeer were better at avoiding the

sub-freezing waters below the cliffs, and these are the reindeer that

survived. Over thousands of years, these reindeer evolved the ability to

glide and then even fly!

I think that Santa gives his reindeer some injections that make their

enzymes work 6,783,215 times faster. Santa may also give them steroids to

make them stronger. This increase in metabolic activity and increased

strength allows them to fly at such great velocities. Don't tell any little

kids about Santa's involvement in drugs! They need to keep their illusions.

It's silly to assume that the slow process of natural selection could have

produced reindeer with such powers. I suppose that Stephen Jay Gould's

theory of punctuated equilibrium might be one means of producing such a

distinct change from other deer species. However, the obvious answer is

that Santa is a marvel at genetic engineering and has the ability to

manipulate reindeer genes to produce whatever traits he wants.

From: DZEsq#NoSpam.aol.com


As an amateur physicist of some renown, many people have asked me for my

take on the various physics problems raised by the so-called "Santa

Conundrum." I tend to agree with all of the rebuttals, and feel confident

in stating that Santa does indeed exist.

My main reason for stating this, however stems from my own, now frequently

cited Theory of Everything, Ribbon and Bow Theory. See J. Appl. Window

Shopping, December 1995, vol 14, p 47 - 25). Many people have suggested

that I have, with that one peer-reviewed article obsoleted both string and

membrane theory. (See also, "The Eleven Dimensional Aspects of Choosing a

Gift for your Wife," J. Appl. Window Shopping, December 1999, vol 18, p 8 -

4, and "Electron Tunnelling Through Display Cases," same issue, pages 72 -


The author of the original article completely overlooks wormholes. Everyone

knows that one pole of the earth's magnetic field is near the North

Pole. And everyone knows that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. Although

the correspondence between lines of magnetic force and wormholes has not

been widely examined in the literature, one conclusion of the theory of

ribbons and bows is that the two are frequently found co-existing. I have

written a paper on this and sent it to Stephen Hawking for comment, but so

far, he has not responded.

Assuming my theory is correct, then Santa, in each of his quantum states

can enter any number of the infinite number of wormholes near his house

simultaneously, and can make the trip at a leasurely pace, since in effect,

he is only making ONE delivery multiplied X number of times as the number

of good children dictate. Obviously once the problem is reduced to a single

trip, the solution is trivial, and it is intuitively obvious that Santa can

fly his Reindeer at normal FAA speed and height recommendations.

Clearly, this is basic physics, and I do not understand why the original

author has any difficulty at all solving this problem.

W. David Zitzkat

Attorney At Law

Wannabe Physicist

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