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Reindeer aren’t aerodynamic


Welcome to the Santa Does Not Exist series (rerun).

DISCLAIMER: Reading this series may cause permanent alteration to your Santa Claus belief.

Leading up to Christmas, I’ll outline several reasons why Santa does not exist, backed up with statistics and scientific facts.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not anti-Christmas. I love the parts that involve drinking and eating. And I usually enjoy the family stuff too. But Santa Claus? Nup. He doesn’t exist.

How do I know?


According to the latest biomechanical research, reindeer are land-dwelling animals, with four legs (hooves attached), a stumpy tail, two ears that can swivel, and for the males a pair of mega-antlers that resemble uprooted trees.

It is a proven fact that reindeer can pull a sled.

No scientific studies, however, have yet concluded that reindeer can fly. Magic is not a viable explanation, and even if it were, aerodynamics would still be a problem.

Drawing on the physics of flight as presented by Berkeley University, it is apparent that, even if reindeer had wings, they would experience immense difficulty even getting off the ground, let alone flying anywhere.

Some things to consider are drag, lift, thrust and weight.

1: A reindeer’s drag (that is, the force exerted on an object moving through fluid) is significantly higher than the average creature of flight; hence, reindeer would struggle to move through the air because their bulk would resist any kind of forward momentum.

2: Reindeer don’t have particularly good lift (another force exerted on an object moving through air), as they’re heavy and a little bit clunky. They might, with a great deal of wing-flapping, manage to get a few feet off the ground and hover precariously before crashing into the Arctic ice.

3: In order to fly, one needs thrust. According to scientists at Berkeley University, only natural fliers have thrust. Furthermore, “To fly at a steady speed in a completely horizontal direction, an animal must generate enough thrust to equal the drag forces on it.” Reindeer drag far outweighs reindeer thrust, thereby significantly hindering their forward momentum flight capabilities.

4: Reindeer are really heavy.

Since reindeer don’t have much thrust (being unnatural fliers), they’re left with a little bit of lift, a whole lot of drag, and a hefty load of body weight to deal with.

One explanation for reindeer flight could be that they’re distant cousins of this guy:

Or they might be using NASA-grade technology. (It has been suggested that Rudolph is using something similar to make his nose glow.)

In the unlikely event that the reindeer manage to get off the ground, their drag will greatly override their thrust. This means that as soon as they hit a strong air current, they’ll be blown backwards, spiral into a nosedive, and faceplank the snow.

This is why Santa does not exist – reindeer aren’t aerodynamic.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. MisplacedBoy permalink
    06.12.2011 2:32 AM

    Hwat??? You mean ‘Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer’ wasn’t a documentary?

    • 18.12.2011 9:27 AM

      You know. I heard that sound on the Sirius “beautiful instrumentals” channel. A bit disturbing, but not bad without the words.

  2. 06.12.2011 12:02 PM

    Hi MisplacedBoy,

    I haven’t seen ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer’, but I would suggest (judging by the title) that it probably wasn’t a documentary. It sounds interesting, though.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. 18.12.2011 9:26 AM

    How do I break it to the children?

    Wow. Good post. Thanks for working that out.

  4. 18.12.2011 9:33 AM

    Hi lorrelee1970,

    I would suggest not breaking it to the children unless they ask directly. Let them enjoy the magic for as long as they wish (or until they reach an age where it’s a bit strange to still be believing in Santa Claus then pull them aside for a gentle chat).

    Thanks for stopping by.


  5. 20.12.2011 10:46 PM

    Great post, Mrs. Science!

  6. 21.12.2011 9:31 AM

    Why, thankee, Hook! Despite being mildly allergic to science and technology, I do try my best.

    Speaking of which, I must pull you up on the Mrs Science address. I’m by no means a scientist – at least, not in the chemicals-and-test-tubes sense of the word. (But if you classify archaeologists as scientists, then that’s okay.) Plus, last time I checked, I didn’t have any gold bands on my fingers.

    Cheers for dropping in, though. Glad you enjoyed the read.


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