Could sci­ence help Santa de­liver all his presents?

Focus-Science and Technology - - Q & A - RUBY BRENT,

Most at­tempts to solve this prob­lem as­sume that Santa must zig-zag around the world in just 24 hours (or 32, if he ex­ploits in­ter­na­tional time zones). In­evitably this means Santa would need some physics-de­fy­ing tech­nol­ogy, such as a faster-than-light warp drive for his sleigh. But re­ally, dis­tance isn’t the main prob­lem; it’s the num­ber of de­liv­er­ies. Es­ti­mates vary re­gard­ing the num­ber of house­holds world­wide that cel­e­brate Christ­mas, but Santa prob­a­bly de­liv­ers to be­tween 200 and 700 mil­lion chil­dren, which means at least 1,700 de­liv­er­ies every sec­ond. The only way he can pull this off is by de­liv­er­ing mul­ti­ple presents at a time. If Santa op­er­ates from a po­lar or­bit in space, rather than criss-cross­ing the sky, he can eas­ily fly over the en­tire planet in 24 hours as it ro­tates be­neath him and he wouldn’t even need to break the laws of physics. The presents can be de­liv­ered in batches, us­ing re­pur­posed ‘Mul­ti­ple In­de­pen­dently tar­getable Re-en­try Ve­hi­cle’ (MIRV) mis­siles, left over from the Cold War. As each war­head closes in on a neigh­bour­hood, it splits open to re­lease hun­dreds of quad­copter drones that si­mul­ta­ne­ously fly off to dif­fer­ent houses and de­liver a sin­gle present each.

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