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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yes, Physicists, there is a Santa Claus

There are a number of "scientific" debunkings of "Santa", such as this one called "The Physics of Santa Claus".


It should probably be enough to point out that the "scientific" evidence in these articles seldom agree, with the math differing by orders of magnitude from one "scientist" to another.  But the Christmas season is a season of joy, and I'd rather shed light on the solution rather than just criticize the misled. These articles point out a number of "facts", contending that one Santa just couldn't do it all, but they fail too see the obvious conclusion -- FRANCHISING! This also explains why "Santa" is often known as "Santa Claus".


Let me explain:


1. By some calculations, Santa would need to make 822.6 visits per second, or 2,961,360 per hour. However, if we assume that there are 740,340 worldwide Santas (the exact number is known only to the Salvation Army), then each Santa has to make 1 visit only every 15 minutes.


2. Roughly speaking, this is

5 minutes for travel (footnote below)
1 minute for sorting out that house's gifts
1 minute for chimney diving / lock picking
3 minutes for gift arranging
2 minutes for cookie eating
1 minute for exiting premises and returning to sleigh
2 minutes "slack" time for unforseen events (most commonly, large dogs)
---
15 minutes

3. "Santa" is, of course, a very sought after title, and the geographic franchises to be the local "Santa" are subject to yearly adjustments due to population shifts. The changes in the legal paragraphs governing geographic territories in the "Santa" agreement are called "Santa Clauses", a term which eventually has been commonly applied to "Santas" themselves.


I am happy to be able to clarify this matter, by applying basic statistical and operations research principles --and please note that I am a member of both ASA (the American Statistical Association) and INFORMS (the professional society for Operations Research and Management Science).


Footnote: The travel time has been reduced considerably in the past century by the use of "jet sleighs" manufactured by Boeing. The original model 7 sleigh is, in fact, what gave the Boeing corporation its name. Elves, noticing how the new sleighs (with, sadly, aluminum reindeer) bounced from housetop to housetop, cheered "Boing! Boing!", which in an Elvin accent sounded like "Boeing! Boeing!".