Sunday, December 24, 2006

Could Santa Exist?

Spending Christmas with girlfriend's kids ages 4 and 6 who ask questions about how Santa delivers all these presents to good boys and girls while they sleep on Christmas eve. I say I don't know the answer, but let's figure it out together using some basic math and a few conservative assumptions.

We assume that Santa only delivers presents during the night while you're sleeping. That's why children never see him. So, in order to accomplish that before you (or another child in the same time zone) wake up, Santa must finish all his work in that time zone within about 10 hours.

Tonight, for this Christmas Eve, we're in north Idaho, and luckily for the kids, I happen to have a McNally Road Atlas showing the other places in the same time zone, along with their populations. Other places like Washington (5.8 million), Oregon (3.4 million), Idaho (half of 1.2 million), California (33.8 million), and Nevada (1.9 million). British Columbia, half of Alberta, Canada and a bit of Mexico are also in the same time zone, but we don't need to consider them for this exercise.

If we add them all up, the total number of people living in our time zone is about 46 million. Since it takes 2 adults to create one child, but one adult can create more than one child, and also that some adults have no children, let's make a conservative estimate that only 1/4th of the total population are children. That comes to about 11.5 million children (46,000,000 / 4).

Let's assume that half those children are rotten little goblins and that Santa doesn't stop at their houses. That reduces it down to 5.75 million children (11,500,000 / 2). Lets also assume that on average, there are 2 children to a household, so Santa would only need to make 2.875 million stops (5,750,000 / 2) during that 10 hour overnight span.

All this means that Santa would need to make 287,500 stops every hour (2.875 million / 10 hours). That's equivalent to 71,875 stops every 15 minutes (287,500 / 4). Or 4,791 stops every minute (71,875 /15). If Santa worked at this pace, he would have to slide down the chimney, drop off presents, eat the cookies that you leave out for him, and fly off away again at a rate of (4,791/60) 79 houses per second!

If all these reasonable assumptions are true, and with the distances of thousands of miles, then that would mean Santa moves faster than the speed of light, which Einstein said was impossible. Theory of Relativity aside, how could a man so fat move that fast?

And if he could, on a sleigh built by elves, wouldn't the U.S. military shoot him down and haul all the wreckage back to Area 51? Why wouldn't they? After all, Santa delivers presents to children around the world, including to terrorist states like Iran, North Korea, and Syria. And anyone who provides aid or comfort to our enemies is also our enemy. Even if it's Santa Claus.

So if you still think there's a Santa Claus, then go to sleep!