On the 8th December we welcomed Susan Cartwright from Sheffield University to give us a talk on
THE PHYSICS OF SANTA CLAUS.
Firstly she gave us a job description of Santa. He has to:
Deliver toys to every Christian household on the planet by entering the property via roof, wall or chimney, put presents under the tree, eat a mince pie, drink a glass of whatever has been left for him, pick up a carrot, exit the dwelling, feed the carrot to the reindeer and move on to the next place!!
Firstly the maths. Say of the 7 billion people on earth, 2 billion are Christians. Say there are 4 people on average in each household. That means there are 500 million households to deliver to. Divide that into 24 hours and you get 0.17 milliseconds per household!! As long as Santa travels East to West he could pass through several time-zones and stretch the 24 hours into 31.
The dilemma is not all dwellings have an easy access such as a chimney, the sleigh would have to travel at close to the speed of light, and would most probably have to park on a sloping roof.
Susan explained that Relativity could come into play as time dilation could be useful to Santa. The flow of time is relative to someone on earth or someone moving.
She then explained Quantum Mechanics. If Santa was a particle or a wave he could cause an interference pattern but as we don’t have a beam of santas this is no use to us. There was laughter at this point and I remember thinking I do not understand Quantum Mechanics.
Sue then went on to Quantum Particles. These can tunnel through barriers and could be a possible solution to the chimney problem. Apparently using proton proton fusion Santa could tunnel through the roof and walls!!
Particles can split and produce a wave which Santa can use to speed up his delivery. However if you look for the Santa particle splitting in two you would only see a single particle not a split one. Therefore if you are not asleep when Santa comes, and sneak downstairs to see him, it spoils the illusion and the whole process collapses!!
Well after using Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Particles I can’t help but think that when Santa gets home to the North Pole he would have a thumping headache and chronic indigestion. No wonder he needs 364 days a year to recover!!
If you are reading this article before the festive season, I wish you all the best and hope Santa brings you all you have wished for.
If you are reading this article after the festive season I hope Santa brought you all you wished for.
Happy New Year.