The Science Behind Santa Traveling the World

The Science Behind Santa Traveling the World

Read Time: 4 minutes

Every year on Christmas Eve, Saint Nick loads up his sleigh and delivers presents to the good little boys and girls across the globe. One man, assisted only by his reindeer, travels the whole world in a single night. How fast does Santa travel? How is he able to pull off such as feat?

Some might say magic. However, there’s science behind the question. Discover how Santa visits every kid on Christmas Eve — and still makes it home for milk and cookies with Mrs. Claus.

A Few Important Numbers

Before we get into theories on travel, it’s crucial to learn answer a few questions, including:

  • How fast does Santa travel?
  • How many houses does he visit?
  • How much time does he have to finish?

In 2016, experts estimated there were roughly 1.9 billion children age 14 and under in the world. If you assume that Santa visits every child, he has his work cut out of for him. Experts argue, however, that he only visits the homes of Christian families, though Christians aren’t the only ones who celebrate the holiday or believe in a guy in a red suit.

For the sake of argument, we’ll stick with Christian children only. Around the world, 32% of families identify as Christian, meaning Santa had more than 600 million children to visit.

Saint Nick only shows up once you’ve gone to bed on Christmas Eve. While it might be a few hours for you, he’s got 31 hours to work with — thanks to time zones and the Earth’s rotation.

How fast does Santa travel? To reach every house and give presents to all 600 million children, he would need to fly 600 miles per second, more than 3,000 times the speed of sound. While this might be possible, especially if Santa has a crack team of science elves designing his sleigh, scientists have put forth other theories that might explain his trip around the globe.

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Quantum Teleportation

In 2017, Chinese scientists set the record for teleportation, sending a photon from their Earth-based lab to a satellite that orbits 300 miles above the planet’s surface. They used a property called quantum entanglement. When two items become entwined at the quantum level, they essentially share their existence, regardless of how far apart they are. In theory, there’s no limit to the distance quantum data can travel between particles.

Some Santa scientists think quantum teleportation might explain how St. Nick makes it to every house on Christmas Eve. With quantum teleportation, he could make the journey in a split-second. Maybe we’ve all got a little Christmas spirit in each of us. Santa can tap into that entanglement to appear, leave gifts and disappear before we wake.

Slowing Down Time

How fast does Santa travel? To adequately answer that question, you need to consider Einstein’s theories of General and Special Relativity. According to Einstein, the quicker you go, the slower time moves. If you approach the speed of light, theoretically, you could slow time.

Remember those numbers we talked about a moment ago? To reach each home in his sleigh, Santa would need to travel 600 miles per second. While that’s not anywhere near the speed of light — at 186,411.36 miles per second — it’s significantly faster than anything human science is capable of making.

According to Einstein’s theories, if Santa travels fast enough, he should have plenty of time to make it to each house before the sun rises on Christmas morning.

Wormholes

When we hear of wormholes, we tend to think of giant black orbs suspended in outer space. When you hop in, they let you travel to the far reaches of the universe. What if we could contain and use wormholes for point-to-point transportation here on Earth? According to physicist Neil De Grasse Tyson, this phenomenon might explain how Santa delivers so many presents in one evening.

In 2012, he compared Santa’s Christmas Eve travels to the Disney-Pixar movie Monsters, Inc. The doors that allow monsters to travel into children’s closets are basically wormholes. What if Santa and his team of elves have a similar set-up that enables them to open a door and deliver presents in an instant?

The Science Behind How Fast Santa Travels

Don’t let these scientific theories ruin the magic behind Santa. Science is a way to help us explain things we don’t understand. For example, how fast does Santa travel? How can he deliver presents to all the good girls and boys in the world on such a strict deadline?

We may not ever fully understand. However, the theories above can help explain how Saint Nick pulls off his tricks. Perhaps he can use quantum teleportation to move instantly between particles. Maybe he has access to a personal wormhole? For what we don’t understand, magic fills in the gaps.

Featured Image Credit: cottonbro via Pexels

The Science Behind Santa Traveling the World
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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. Megan is also a regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights, and Real Clear Science. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking, and stargazing.