An article reproduced from the column “One-eyed view”, in The Australian, Friday December 13, 1996.

Don’t read if you’re under 21.

The topic for Black Friday is explosive, sensitive and not for the eyes of the young and impressionable. The following is taken from papers given to me last year by a Baptist minister – I kid you not – a man not only of good faith but trustworthy to a fault.

So it must be true. Yet it has taken me a year to rush into print with it. If I’d seen this when I was a kiddie it would have troubled me.

But times have changed. Yo-yo spinning, baseball cap-wearing, Internet surfing dudes and babes seem to be made of less shockable stuff these days. I would still counsel against showing this to anyone under 21 though.

Here goes – a thesis discussing the existence of Santa Claus:

1. No know species of reindeer can fly but there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified. While most of these are insects and germs, this does not completely rule out fluing reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

2. There are two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. But since Santa doesn’t appear to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15 per cent of the total – 378 million.

At an average of 3.5 children per household, that 91.8 million homes. One presumes there’s at least one good child in each.

3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different times zones and the rotation of the Earth. Assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical), this works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been provided, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are distributed evenly around the Earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accepts), we are talking about a kilometre per household, a total trip of 112 million km, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus eating etc.

This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving about 1040km per second, 3000 times the speed of sound. For the purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 42km per second – a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 24 kmh.

4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized Lego set (1kg), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tonnes, not counting Santa, who is described invariably as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 140kg. Even granting that flying reindeer could pull 10 times the normal, we cannot do the job with eight or nine.

We therefore need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload – not even counting the weight of the sleigh – to 353,430 tonnes. Again for comparison, this is four times the weight of the cruise liner, QEII.

5. 353,000 tonnes travelling at 1040km per second create enormous air resistance – this will heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair or reindeer will absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each.

In short, they will burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporised within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500 times greater than gravity.

A 10kg Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) will be pinned to the back of his sleigh by more than 2 million kg of force.

I must end matters there, sparing readers the gruesome conclusion.

Who’d be Santa Claus?

[NB I have typed this just as it appeared, so “km” in the second paragraph of point 3 should read “kilometres”, and the eating referred to in the same paragraph has already been taken care of in the first paragraph of that point. Is the Ulysses space probe actually on Earth or still in space?]