Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday Sh!ts And Giggles: An Engineer's Christmas

How Engineers Spoil Christmas

• There are approximately 378 million children (persons under 18) in the world. That's an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, which comes to 108 million homes and let's presume there is at least 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 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 stocking, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, to get back up the chimney, into the sleigh and get onto the next house. This, of course, would explain why no one has ever seen him.

• 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 or 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a pokey 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 can pull 10 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).

• A mass of nearly 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance, which would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the 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 dead stop to 650 MPS in .001 seconds, would be subjected to acceleration forces of 17,000 g's. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrous considering all the high-calorie snacks he must have consumed over the years) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

And that's why it's easy to explain Santa to kids but not to adults -- especially engineers!


more cowbell said...

haha -- good stuff. The Bohemian has asked if she can use these calculations with your permission.

Y | O | Y said...

Of course! But I can't vouch for their accuracy. I received it in an email from a friend that sends out such things to a mass disti list.

Doralong said...

So, how much alcohol must two grown adults divide between themselves in order to assemble a bike that has directions that were written in english- by an non-english speaking person and missing precisely 10.25 vital parts???

evilganome said...

Only an engineer would spend the time figuring this out. It says a lot about engineers. I myself like to think he does it by time/space manipulation.

Red7Eric said...

This reminds me of a brilliant essay I read years and years ago called "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" that explained, in scientific terms, exactly what would happen if Superman and Lois Lane ever had sex. This one wasn't as dirty, but still fun!