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We crunch the numbers for Santa

Published: 7:34PM Wednesday December 24, 2008 Source: ONE News

Santa is getting closer to New Zealand shores with his sleigh weighed down with presents. In only a few hours, if you've been good, he'll be visiting your neighbourhood.

But ONE News has investigated just what it would take for the jolly man in red to make his round-the-world journey and get to everyone deserving in the space of one night.

Mathematician Claire Postlethwaite crunched the numbers.

Shes worked out that 27% of the 6.5 billion people on Earth are under 15 - a useful, if arbitrary threshold of those young enough to believe in Santa (because, as every kid knows, you have to believe in him to get a visit).

Thats about 2 billion kids. And at roughly three kids per home, Santa has to visit 570 million homes.

Postlethwaite says Santa will start with us in New Zealand. Because that's where the sun sets first on Christmas Eve. So he will start out in Gisborne, that will be the first place he goes.

But instead of having just 12 hours to get to every child's house, Claire's worked out Santa actually crisscrosses the earth, being chased by the morning sun as he moves from time zone to time zone.

So the total time he has is from 9pm till 10am is 11 hours, plus 13 hours plus, plus another nine hours, so this comes to 33 hours.

But 570 million houses in 33 hours doesn't leave long at each house. Clare estimates that it comes to one 5000th of a second to visit each house.

Meaning he travels at 10.6 million kilometers per hour - thats a brisk eight-and-a-half times the speed of sound.

So Rudolph and his pals are going to be legging it.

And have you considered why Santa is so fat? Again, the math makes sense - if every single household on his route leaves a treat of biscuits, milk or beer, it makes sense.

If one biscuit is around 100 calories, that's 570 times ten to the power of eight calories.

That works out at about 6,500 years worth of food - if you paced yourself.

To burn off this many calories it turns out he would have to run the equivialant of the distance to the sun and back three times. Postlethwaite estimates.

Then there's the presents. - all two billion of them. Santa's elves break all sorts of labour laws, producing 80 million presents per day, that's assuming a just-manageable 84,000 elves, working 16-hour days, producing one present every minute. Thats not even factoring in a generously-sized communications and human resources team.

So, is the North Pole a sweatshop? Or is Santa forced to crash-diet immediate as of every Boxing Day? Logic and maths suggests Santa can't do it each and every year, but even mathematicians like Postlethwaite believe Santa will again make the impossible possible.

That's the magic of Christmas.

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