Awkward's Humour and Sillies

Physics Of Santa Clause - Altitude Theory

Here's what Richard Noad had to say:

Santa has 4 main areas to deliver presents to. Europe, (North + South) America, and Australasia. Santa simply needs to fly (at a great height), starting over the Eastern side of each continent. The kicking movement of the reindeer as the fly through the night sky is used to flick `present bombs' along precise trajectories behind the sleigh. These parcel bombs consist of the presents for hundreds of households, and upon re-entry in to the atmosphere the 'bombs' breaks apart - sending the individual presents flying on their way. The reason Santa's sleigh can carry so much is because at the height he is flying, the acceleration due to gravitational attraction towards the Earth is greatly decreased.

And here's my commentary on it...

Of course, this would mean that Santa and all his reindeer would have to have oxygen supplies, and a canny knowledge of atmospherics and weather systems. But hey, this guy's been doing it for a good thousand years or so, and I'm sure he's had plenty of practice.

If Santa were travelling at such a great altitude that g was substantially reduced, he would need to be travelling at a far greater speed than on the Earth's surface. However, at that height, Santa would have negligible air resistence, and so without a resistive force, the propulsion from the flying reindeer would theoretically produce a constant acceleration. Add to that the fact that the sleigh is continually losing mass (maybe not just from presents, but also those other unmentionable bodily functions), and you have an acceleration that actually increases! Towards the end of his run, Santa could achieve phenomenal speeds, perhaps enabling him to cover North and South America in a couple of hours.

The only problem Santa would have would be slowing down enough for re-entry, but if his reindeer stop pulling and he ceases to drop present bombs, then there will be no forward transverse acceleration, so the only way to go is to slow down.

His reindeer must need feeding after all that exertion, so I suspect the elves have set up a feeding satellite to provide food after the run. The mass gained by the team from feeding would start to slow them down, and anyway they've got a whole year to find their way back to Lapland to restock the sleigh...


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Last updated 21/06/2000 at 16:34