February 1, 2023

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Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas. Physicists have calculated what prompted St. Santa to fly

They don’t believe in Santa Claus, but just in case, they calculated with what engine his sleigh should fly. If it’s a turbojet, its thrust should be similar to that of NASA’s Saturn V rocket or the Boeing 747-400’s 150. And the sled must have strong wings.

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It turns out that from the point of view of physics, Santa’s sleigh ride is not impossible. This was said by physics students at the University of Leicester, who published a study on the subject in the Physics Journal Special Subjects, a few days ago. However, the sled will have to undergo some modifications. They should have wings, for example, and as big as passenger planes.

Inspired by the 2003 movie “Elf”, physicists in which Santa decides to replace the languid Christmas spirit traditionally driven by a sleigh loaded with gifts with a jet engine, what criteria such an engine should have. AboutCalculations showed that the thrust should be comparable to that produced by NASA’s Saturn V rocket engine or the Boeing 747-400’s 150 engines. To generate enough lift, the sled must be moving at a speed of at least 5,500 meters per second, or 19,800 kilometers per hour. This is ten times faster than sound.

“We figured Santa’s jet engine must be very powerful, so he and his elves must have access to advanced technology,” said Ryan Rowe, one of the paper’s authors.

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The students’ goal was to create a simple model that would apply basic physics concepts to solve the problem of how to keep the sled in flight. Calculations included the weight of the sleigh and the weight of the presents, and the weight of the nine reindeer and Santa Claus were omitted as irrelevant. Anyway, if there is a motor, why the clang? It was assumed that Santa Claus moved in a 19th century British marine sleigh weighing 635 kg. So that they could fly, a pair of Boeing 747 wings were added to them.



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For Santa’s sleigh to stay in a level ride, its weight must be balanced by lifting. This is due to the lower pressure of the air flowing over the wing from above than the pressure of the air flowing below the wing. Taking into account the weight of the sleigh and fairings, it must run at 19,800 km/h to create enough lift. The engine that accelerates the sled to that speed and overcomes air resistance must have a thrust of 38 million Newtons. That’s the equivalent of one engine on the Saturn V rocket used by NASA in the Apollo and Skylab programs.

The Journal of Physics Special Topics allows physics students at Leicester to learn about the process of writing and reviewing scientific papers. And although the articles published in it often concern trivial or entertaining issues, in writing them and reviewing the work of their colleagues, students act according to the accepted rules of the world of science.

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“The process students go through mimics the process of publishing the work of real research physicists working on exciting topics such as black holes or curing cancer,” Professor Mervyn Roy, director of education in Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, told Mail Online. – We must study and approach new problems creatively, but also present our discoveries clearly, and check results by other scientists as part of the review process – explains the idea of ​​physics students writing works about Santa Claus.




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