Santa Claus has to travel at 0.5% the speed of light to make sure that all children get their presents on time. This is what students at the University of Leicester in England calculated.
Santa Claus and his reindeer fly around the world on Christmas Eve. They deliver gifts to millions of children across the globe. Exactly how fast must Santa Claus travel to make sure he achieves this incredible feat?
Arcchana Gajendran, Shannon Madden and Ridda Mahmood, three physics students, sat down to calculate how fast he needs to travel.
They first tried to estimate how many children he would need to visit. There are currently approximately 715 million children on the planet. He would need to visit 238,000,000 homes if we assume there are an average of three kids per household.
Santa Claus visits 238 million households in 12 hours
The team then calculated how long Santa would have to deliver all the presents. They also assumed he would travel for a total of twelve hours.
However, if he travels from east to west, he gets an extra 24 hours if we take into account time zones.
Using these figures, the students said Santa Clause would have to travel at 1.56 x 106 m/s. That’s approximately 0.5% the speed of light.
Regarding their estimate, Ridda Mahmood said:
“The value itself is a rough estimate given the limitations of a two-page article, but having aerofoils of a few millimetres squared gives a rough estimate of how much magic Santa uses.”
Shannon Madden said:
“We came up with a seasonal question we thought would be fun and festive to investigate, although we know there are some limitations.”
Future work should also consider how long Santa Claus spends in each household. There is also the commuting time to and from the North Pole plus the sleigh’s acceleration potential.
In a different study, researchers reported that most of us stop believing in Santa Claus when we are about eight years old.