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RE: An Engineer's Take On Christmas

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>From the secret vaults of obscure technical history.
 
In the early 1900's a young patent clerk from Europe was brought to the
North Pole for consultation with Santa Claus.  The popularity of Santa had
created the need for speed.  The patent clerk, named Albert, was well
schooled in physics and was brought on board the Santa Claus Elf R&D Team to
address the problem of inertial forces due to high accelerations and the
effect on physical matter that had been a puzzle to the elf R&D staffers. 
After many months of mathematics, physics, leading edge engineering,
tinkering, and magic; the R&D team was able to develop a sled design and
reindeer arrangement that apparently defied Newtonian mechanics and punched
through the space/time continuum.  The reindeer hitch was code named Quantum
I.
 
The project was fast tracked and was pushed into production.  The R&D group
was elated but somewhat concerned about the reams of paper and calculations
required to develop the basics for Quantum I project.  The project was also
complicated by all of the oblique angles designed into the sled runners. 
The young patent clerk was frustrated by the simplification effort and went
home to work on it.   Santa Claus dropped by the laboratory one evening to
study the problem.  Being a master at simplification, and a mathematics and
physics hobbyist, Santa immersed himself in the study.  Santa simplified
calculations and abbreviated the runners to the "=" sign for brevity in the
assembly drawings, and modified the specifications and calculations
accordingly.
 
Santa also found a method by which the elves could construct the runners
squared on the sled and could not wait to tell young Albert about his
accomplishments. He quickly composed a note to tell Albert the news.  Santa
intended to write that the elves had constructed the runners squared, and in
his haste he wrote, "Elves = Construction Made squared" and set off to share
it with Albert.  To get it there quickly, he took the prototype Quantum I
out into the night.  Quantum I allowed Santa to zoom off from house to house
with time seemingly standing still.  
 
He dropped the note by the patent clerk's house hurriedly as he was on a
Christmas Eve run.  The mechanics of space time continuum was new to Santa
and it inadvertently compressed and distorted the text of his note.  The
resulting note read, "Albert, E = M C squared". Merry Christmas, Santa.  The
rest is a matter of common record.
 
Hypothesized for your enjoyment. 
 
Harold Sprague
The Neenan Company 
Fort Collins, CO 80525 


________________________________ 


Caldwell, Stan wrote: 

There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the 
world.  However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, 
Jewish or Buddhist (except maybe in Japan) religions, this reduces the 
workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according 
to the Population Reference Bureau).  At an average (census) rate of 3.5 
children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that 
there is at east one good child in each. 

Santa has about 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 967.7 visits per second. This is 
to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around

1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, 
fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat 
whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into 
the sleigh and get on to the next house. 


Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around 
the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the 
purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per 
household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops 
or breaks. This means 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, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 
miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per

hour. 


The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element.  Assuming that 
each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the 
sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On 
land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even 
granting that the "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, 
the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them--Santa would need 
360,000 of them.  This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the

sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen 
Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch). 


600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air 
resistance--this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a 
spacecraft re-enteringthe earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer 
would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each.  In short, 
they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer 
behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire 
reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or 
right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip. 


Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from 
a stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to acceleration 
dead forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) 
would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, 
instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob

of pink goo. 


Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now. 


Merry Christmas! 


Stan R. Caldwell, P.E. 
Still Waitin' on Santa