No known species of reindeer can fly.
But there are roughly 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified.
While most of these are insects and germs, this does not rule out flying
reindeer - though Santa and my uncle Ralph, in his drinking days, are the
only people who've ever seen one.
There are two billion children (small
people under the age of 18) in the world. But since Santa doesn't (appear
to) handle most non-Christian children, that reduces the workload to about
15 per cent of the total (roughly 378 million according to the Population
Reference Bureau). At a rate of say, 3.5 children per household, that's
91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good kid in each.
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. That's 822.6 visits per second. For each
eligible household, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh,
jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, put presents under the tree,
eat any snacks, kiss mommy when available, get back up the chimney, hop
in the sleigh and move on.
Assuming each of these 91.8 million stops
are evenly distributed around the earth, we're now talking about 0.78 miles
per household - a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting stops
to let Santa and the reindeer do what most of us must do at least once
every 31 hours.
This means Santa's sleigh moves at 650 miles
per second, or 3,000 times the speed of sound. The fastest man-made vehicle,
the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles a second (a conventional
reindeer, by the way, can run 15 miles per hour, tops).
Assuming each child gets nothing more that
a medium-sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons,
not counting overweight Santa. Conventional reindeer can pull no more than
300 pounds. Even granting flying reindeer could pull 10 times the normal
amount, Santa would need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload (not
counting the sleigh) to
353,430 tons, or four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth II.
353,000 tons travelling at 650 miles a second
creates enormous air resistance, which would heat the reindeer to incandescence
in the same fashion as spacecraft or meteors 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,
the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms. The entire
team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second.
Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal
forces of 17,500.06 gravities. A 250-pound Santa (a wee bit of an underestimate)
would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.
The Internet originator's conclusion to the above:
"If Santa ever did deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now."