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Say It Right Series


Posted by bababardwan December 20, 2008 in the Group General Discussion.

Tags: Merry Christmas, 圣诞老人

This is fairly long, but it is a great read.  Emeritus Professor
Bernard Moulden, AM, presented this piece of scientific logic while he was the
Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University, Townsville, Australia. The staff were absolutely

confused about the topic and they kept ringing up to see what the Vice-Chancellor was
REALLY going to talk about. The Professor gave it all with a straight face, even when the

audience was in laughter convulsions.




Problem 1:     The Zoological Improbability.


Problem 2:     The Work Rate Limit.


Problem 3:     Speed and Friction Limits.


Problem 4:     The Mass and Propulsive Energy Paradox


Problem 5:     The Inertial Catastrophe Theorem.


1400 words 9 minutes

Vice-Chancellors are expected to be not only political leaders, financial and administrative leaders, and in some sense the external face of the institution, they are also expected to be academic leaders, and it is in this latter capacity, and as a former Dean of Science that I speak to you now. Like Vice-Chancellors all over the world, it falls to me at this time of year to review our multidisciplinary approach to a number of critical problems, and to report on our current state of knowledge.


Particularly in these times of indeterminate funding, one fundamental question that binds together all scholars of whatever discipline is one of Life’s deepest mysteries; ranking alongside the scale of infinity, the scope of eternity, the nature of truth, and the meaning of life.  That question is:



I would like to give you a wide ranging multidisciplinary review of some critical problems with the Clausian Hypothesis.


Problem 1:  The Zoological Improbability.


This is based upon years of careful field work, and although the arguments are highly technical, a reasonable lay summary is the following: no species of reindeer currently known to science is known for certain to be able to fly. 


At first sight this may seem to be a fatal objection.  However, we must bear in mind the Popperian axiom that it is impossible to prove a negative.  And remember that there are estimated to be at least 300 million species of living organisms yet to be classified. Now it is true that most of these are insects and micro-organisms, but this fact certainly does not rule out the possibility that a species of flying reindeer does indeed remain to be discovered.


The Zoological Refutation, then, is a rebuttal of indeterminate status.


The second problem, problem 2, is known as:

The Work Rate Limit.


This is based upon the simple numerical fact that there are about 2 billion children (defined for demographic purposes as human persons aged less than 18 years) in the world.


Even in these ecumenical times, Santa still does not take responsibility for Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist children, and that reduces the potential workload to say about 15% of the total – let’s say about 378 million according to the Population Reference Bureau.


At an average rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes.


Let us assume that there us at least one good child in each household.


Our calculations show that Santa has at best 31 hours of elapsed time to work with, thanks to different time zones and the rotation of the earth, and assuming he works predominantly from east to west, which he is believed to do.


This works out to a schedule involving 822.6 household visits …per second.  Now remember that for each eligible household with good children, Santa has to:

find a parking place,

hop out of the sleigh,

grab the parcels,

jump down the chimney,

fill the stockings,

distribute the remaining presents under the tree,

eat the snacks,

drink the sherry,

scramble back up the chimney,

get back into the sleigh,

and move on to the next home.


It is a simple matter to calculate that the time available for this sequence of actions is precisely 1.22 milliseconds.

That is not counting stops to do what all of us must do at least once in 31 hours, particularly if we’ve been guzzling sherry.   The consequences of Santa not taking such breaks are of course too ugly to contemplate. I shall have more to say on this later.


At first sight then, the Work Rate Limit does seem to present something of a challenge to the Clausian hypothesis.


Let us turn now to Problem 3, which is more of a constellation of problems, involving :

Velocity and Friction Limits


If we make the simplifying assumption that those 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed across the face of the earth, then a simple piece of solid geometry tells us that the average distance between households is about .78 miles.


This means a total distance traveled of about 75.6 million miles in the available 31 hours, and this in turn means that Santa’s sleigh has to move – making the second simplifying assumption of instantaneous acceleration and braking – at about 677 miles per second, or about 3000 times the speed of sound.  For purposes of comparison it is interesting to note that the fastest man made vehicles on earth – or rather off it – are space probes like the Ulysses, which move at a maximum velocity of about 27.4 miles per second: about a twenty-fifth the required speed of Santa’s sleigh.


Now as you have probably already calculated in your head, a speed of 677 miles per hour translates into about 2.44 million miles per hour. 


A conventional reindeer can run at about 15 miles per hour.  Maximum.  This I admit is an important technical difficulty, and Rhondda Jones and I are just preparing a collaborative ARC grant application to work on it.


There is a further problem.  As you all know, air resistance increases with the square of speed.  An object travelling at 677 miles per second experiences enormous friction as it encounters molecules of air.  This will heat up the reindeer just as it heats up spacecraft and meteorites entering the earth’s atmosphere.


Calculations reveal that the lead reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION (14.3 times 10 to the 9) joules of energy.  Per second. Each.


Any normal reindeer would burst into flame and vapourise almost instantaneously, within 4.26 milliseconds to be precise. Now I think we would all have to agree that this is another serious physical challenge to the Clausian hypothesis.


While we are on this point, it is interesting to note that Santa’s reindeers are invariably portrayed as having red noses.  It is often assumed that they are red from cold, but our theory that the red glow is actually thermoluminescence that it is the consequence of friction from air resistance on re-entry.  It is still not clear why the re-entry does not create multiple deafening sonic booms in their wake, nor why the entire reindeer team is not vapourised within 4.26 milliseconds, as theory would predict, but this is the subject of another ARC research grant application which could have obvious practical spin-offs.


I turn now to Problem 4: 

The Mass and Propulsive Energy Paradox


Assuming that each child were to get no more than, say just for illustration, a medium-sized Lego set weighing about a kilogram, the sleigh will be carrying a weight of some 92,000 tonnes – not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight and whose mass must of course increase dramatically as his consumption of 91.8 million Christmas snacks proceeds - especially if he makes no comfort stops.


Now, on land, your normal healthy reindeer can haul no more than about 300 kilos.  Even assuming that the hypothesised and yet-to-be-discovered “flying reindeer” had supernormal strength and could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, our modeling shows that you could not do the job with the standard eight or nine reindeer.


You need 214,207 reindeer plus or minus 23.


This makes the total mass of the Clausian rig – not even counting the weight of the sleigh – approximately 267,430 tonnes.  This is almost five times the displacement weight of the Queen Elizabeth.  The cruise liner, that is.


I think that even the most committed believer would have to agree that serious cracks are beginning to appear in the Clausian hypothesis.


I turn now to Problem 5: 

The Inertial Catastrophe Theorem


As he goes about his business Santa will be subject to enormous inertial forces.  Our calculations suggest that Santa would be pinned to the back of his seat by 2,103,407 kilograms of force; that is about 308,215g, or about 20,547 times the maximum g force the normal body can stand.  According to our figures Santa would be compressed to a slightly soggy wafer a few molecules thick plastered to the back of the sleigh, if the sleigh back is constructed of non-porous material. I leave it to your imagination to embroider the implications of this if Santa does not take comfort stops while he is consuming 91.8 million samples of Christmas pudding, but I personally do not have the stomach to pursue the issue. 


 If on the other hand the back of the sleigh is constructed of porous material…

…Santa would be effectively sieved through the back of the seat rather like marmalade through muslin.


These five critical problems – the Zoological Improbability, the Work-rate Limit, the Speed and Friction Limits, the Mass and Propulsive Energy paradox, and the Inertial Catastrophe Theorem, - are probably sufficient to persuade you that on all grounds of scientific evaluation, according to the laws of Physics, Santa cannot possibly exist.


So what are we to conclude?


The conclusion is obvious - and I hold Professor Mal  Herron personally responsible for this: the conclusion must be that


the laws of Physics as we know them must be wrong:


Of course Santa exists!

Merry Christmas to you all!


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