Each year, Santa Claus must complete his annual task: deliver gifts to every child in the world (provided they’re not on the naughty list). To do this, he pushes the boundaries of physics. But how fast does Mr. Claus have to travel on Christmas Eve?
Depending on who you ask, Santa’s journey starts and ends in Lapland, Finland or the North Pole. As he travels from east to west to race against the Sun, the man dressed in red has more than 31 hours to deliver all his gifts.
The UNICEF estimates that there were just above 677 million children under five in the world in 2021. With an average of 3.5 children per house in the world, this means that Santa will have to visit 193.4 million chimneys in 31 hours, or 10,3978 chimneys per minute. Now with modern houses rarely including chimneys, how does Mr. Claus continue doing his job? That is a topic for another article.
Recent developments in Rudolph-nose-tracking technology at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) show that people from all continents (even Antarctica) receive their presents on Christmas Eve.
Considering that the surface of the Earth extends over 510,1 million square kilometers, Santa must travel at a speed of 16,451,612 kilometers per hour to cover every last corner of the world in the 31 hours at his disposal.
As a comparison, the fastest human-made object, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, traveled at a maximum speed of 532,000 kilometers per hour when it went surfing into the Sun’s outer atmosphere. In more earthly conditions, the X-43 experimental unmanned aerial vehicle, also developed by NASA, became the fastest jet-powered aircraft on record at approximately Mach 9.6, or 10,240.84 kilometers per hour, during its last test flight.
There is no doubt that Christmas magic is at work for both Santa and his sleigh to sustain such high speeds. Fortunately, for the last 66 years at least, he has always met his deadline.