Father Christmas’ Amazing Journey

I originally wrote this article for Biomed Central’s ‘The Word’:

Millions of children all across the world wait up on Christmas Eve hoping to hear the patter of hoof prints, a distant deep and rich laugh. However, what are the ‘scientific’ practicalities of Father Christmas’ annual road trip?

If he visits all 700,000,000 Christian children in the world it is estimated he would have to travel 212 million miles. Now whilst this might cause a pretty hefty devaluation of your car if it appeared on your milometer, it presents a different set of problems for ‘Jolly Ol’ St Nick’.

One such problem is the weight of his present stash. If every child was given a Transformers toy weighing 659g his total load would be about 460,000 metric tonnes. A typical reindeer is able to pull approximately 150kg. This means that he would require around 3 million friends for Rudolf! Given the typical reindeer will eat 2.1% of its body weight a day in the winter St Nick will need to produce almost 230 million carrots in his allotment to feed them for just the Christmas Eve journey.

Now the question that it is prudent to pose when considering this is the amount of energy these Reindeer will need to produce. The total weight of Santa’s entourage requires a lot of force to reach the 1,800 miles per second needed to deliver all his presents within the Christmas Eve window, 700 quintillion joules of energy to be precise. However, the problem with this is that it assumes that he is travelling outside of the earth’s atmosphere with zero air resistance or drag. The process of reentering the earth’s atmosphere is the most difficult stage in his long journey, as the most likely occurrence is that the reindeer, presents, sleigh and all would rapidly disintegrate due to the heat.

But then again maybe it’s just magic!

Some of the data in this article was from this article in the Telegraph: http://bit.ly/i8Tc89

For more Christmassy fun here is a Science Christmas poem some coursemates and I created: http://bit.ly/fSyr39