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!


  1. He doesn't have 10 hours to servce your time zone because he has to service every time zone, not just MST. If he had to be everywhere at exactly midnight, he would have 24 hours to service the whole planet, but he can actually fall slightly behind that schedule and start at the International Dateline 5 hours before midnight and get back to the International Dateline 5 hours after midnight. That gives him 34 hours to service the whole planet, which is an average of 1.42 hours (1 hour 25 minutes) in each time zone (34/24).

    You have established he travels faster than the speed of light, but that means he can travel back in time. So he can take his time to eat cookies and admonish the occasional child struggling to stay awake on the stairs, then back in his sleigh, v > c, and he has the time back to use again.

    As for the US military shooting him down, you haven't been watching the Christmas Eve TV news shows (have you been snugly tucked in your bed with thoughts of sugar-plums dancing in hour head?). They always show military radar screens tracking him with fighter escorts assuring safe passage.

  2. Your girlfriend said11:23 AM

    He has more time than you originally estimated since Santa does not visit Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist children. So let’s knock off another 400 million children from Santa’s list. Since he will not be visiting Iran or any other Muslim countries, we will not need to worry about him being shot down by the U.S. Military.

    However, he would still need to travel at an impossible speed, which means that if he did exist, he is surely dead by now. He exploded into a ball of goo from traveling at such extreme speed.
    Just kidding, Santa does exist. He exists in the imagination of children around the world.

    Merry Christmas!
    I love you, from your girlfriend.

  3. your little sister11:55 AM

    All of these little kids will snap out of it and realize that Santa Claus doesn’t exist when they are old enough. It is a very scary thought to have to grow up and live in your adult world, where some people do not have the imagination or heart to believe in anything other than dull facts. They are so beaten down, they no longer have the ability to dream. I say we should let the kids be kids for as long as they can. I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I think the idea is sweet. Oh, and about the military tracking Santa Claus, they are only pretending to track Santa Clause because they are hiding a flaw in their systems. Their tracking devices were built by the elves in the north pole and have all kinds of Santa Protection Devices (SPDs) built in. They also built a cloaking device into the sled. Everybody knows that. Surely you didn’t think that Santa wouldn’t be smart enough to evade the tracking devices. Now do me a favor, don't go making little kids believe Santa doesn't exist until its their time.