How Does Santa Claus Do It?

ByABC News
December 25, 2005, 4:19 PM

Dec. 25, 2005 — -- How does he do it? Santa visits homes all over the world on Christmas Eve. But when you consider how many homes there are, how little time he has and how much he has to carry, that's when you truly appreciate Santa Claus.

For example, let's start wtih something simple:

There are 2.2 billion children -- people under 18 -- on the planet. Assuming most Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children do not expect a visit from Santa, we can subtract 85 percent of the children. And for help, we asked a physics teacher from Stuyvesant High School in New York, Stanley Teitel, for assistance.

Teitel assumed 2.5 kids per home and at least one good child per household. So, how many homes must Santa visit?

"If we're assuming that there are approximately 132 times 10 to the sixth," Teitel said, "that's 132 million Christian homes worldwide."

Next, consider how much time Santa actually has to do his job. If the 132 million homes are evenly distributed across the surface of the Earth, and if Santa heads west in a kind of random zigzag pattern across 24 time zones, constantly staying in darkness for as much as he can, and if much of the world is water where no one lives, it works out that Santa must travel about 175 million land miles, including the home-to-home little pops.

"He's coming in, hitting and going on," Teitel said, adding, "We're not plowing fields here."

If Santa travels 175 million miles in 31 hours, Teitel said, he visits 1,178 homes per second -- every second. "I'm afraid so," he said.

So in your house, Santa has 8/100,000ths of a second to park the sleigh, plus, "down the chimney, fill the stockings, take care of the tree, eat the cookies, drink the milk, back up the chimney and back onto the sled and go," Teitel said. "This whole job has to be done each second."

But that's not all, because remember, he has to carry all the toys. So let's say each child gets one toy, two pounds, multiply that by 330 million children and that's 660 million pounds of toys. And that doesn't include Santa, who -- on close inspection -- is not thin. So that means somebody has got to haul a sleigh that weighs the equivalent of four times the tonnage of the QEII.

So how many Rudolphs and Prancers and Blitzens does it take to pull such a huge weight? "We would need 2.2 times 10 to the fifth," Teitel said, "220,000 reindeer."

Imagine 220,000 reindeer going, we calculate, 7,800 times the speed of sound. That would create a sonic boom that would wake up every child on the planet.

So are we dealing with a phenomenon from the familiar universe? Teitel doubts it.

"I would suspect not," he said. "I would, would suspect we're dealing with someone who's very special and has been given powers to be able to do his job.

He is, after all, a saint.

"That's right," Teitel said. "And usually, that's all it takes."