We’re taking a new approach to a holiday bonus episode of Working Better. As we see it, the question isn’t “is Santa real?” but rather “how DOES he do it?” We break it all down with the type of needlessly detailed, exhaustingly thorough investigative reporting that we’d expect from our beloved host, Scott Hermes.
Happy Holidays everyone! We’ll be back in January with a brand new (and real) episode!
What kind of thrust would you need to lift 321,000 tons off the ground and into the air? How would the pilot survive the force that the vehicle would have to generate? What if I told you that the vehicle would then have to deliver that payload to 160 million households across the entire globe in just 24 hours? How could that possibly happen?
It has been well-proven by research in Spy Jr in 1990 that it is physically impossible for Santa to deliver all of the presents in one night. For example his sleigh would have to carry 321,000 tons of presents to 2 billion children worldwide. The air friction generated by the force needed to accelerate the sleigh would incinerate the reindeer. So clearly, the Jolly Old Elf doesn’t deliver the presents by himself. He has to be the CEO behind the effort to pull off the most impressive display of logistics in history. How does he do it? What kind of technology does Saint Nick have in order to deliver 2 billion toys worldwide?
The real answer is: no one knows. The Great Gift Giver runs a tighter ship than the NSA and lacking a “Snowden of the North Pole,” to do a dump on wikileaks, we will have to reverse engineer his logistics based on the known results.
I’m Scott Hermes. This is working better. On today’s episode, how can Father Christmas get all of those presents delivered in just 24 hours?
Breaking it Down (1:30)
We are forever indebted to Bruce Handy and Joel Potischman for their ground-breaking analysis of the physics of Christmas in 1990 in Spy Jr. Magazine. I have taken the liberty of reproducing their analysis but updated for new population numbers which makes Kris Kringle’s delivery logistics even more impressive.
There are approximately 2.2 billion children worldwide. Luckily for Sinter Klaas, not all of them celebrate Christmas. For sake of argument, let’s assume that only Christian, or Christian identifying children celebrate Christmas. We all know that there are plenty of atheists who suddenly find religion when it’s time to get a free hand out from
Grandfather Frost but let’s just go with the Christian children for now. Let’s assume that 30% of the children in the world are Christian which is what the approximate overall percentage is for the population as a whole. That is 660 million customers for Nick of the North. But not all of these children will be getting presents. Only the good ones. Man. Is that going to be hard to predict but let’s just go with 85%. Which means the Man in Red has to deliver 561 million presents. But some of those kids live in the same house; let’s say on average 3.5 kids per household which comes out to about 160 million deliveries.
So, 561 million presents to get to 160 million addresses and assuming the Jolly Jelly Belly Jiggler starts off at sunset on Christmas Eve in Tonga and heads West until he hits Kiribati, he has about 36 hours to get it all done. Clearly impossible for one man, even one with dimples so merry.
So how does he do it?
The big man’s big data (3:09)
Well no offense to the original research from Spy Jr, but that question overlooks one of the more daunting aspects of Pere Noel’s job: how does he even know what to get you? Sure, he can wait until he gets a letter or a more likely a SnapChat from Little Johnny or if you are near one of his many customer service representatives at your local mall, he can wait until Little Susie has spilled her guts but if he has to wait until he gets that information to even start the procurement process his Christmas goose is cooked.
For more insight on the role that data gathering has to play in the process, we talked to our own Chris Weiland, head of Kin+Carta Labs.
Labs is really about promoting innovation at Kin+Carta and helping our clients do the same – and not so much about hypothesizing about the technology a mythical man-beast would use. But if I’m on the spot here, given the highly sensitive nature of –
Clearly, The Man With All of the Toys has a consumer tracking, data analysis, and predictive AI system that makes Google look like two guys with a pair of binoculars, throwing the I Ching and reading a magic 8 ball. The only logical conclusion is that he has been deeply embedded in the internet from Day One. Sure, we are told that it was paid for by DARPA or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. But you know what DARPA could stand for? Donner And Rudolph Projects Agency. That’s right, the
President of Presents paid for the internet and his bright red nose is packet sniffing at every node of the internet and discovering what kids want before they even know to ask for it. This allows him to ramp up production across the world ahead of the eventual demand. But that only accounts for about 60% of the population that has access to the internet. What about the other 40%? Simple. The Gift Giver That Keeps on Giving has been using a Quantum Computer to do predictive analytics on the remaining 40% of the population. Hell, he is probably already predicting which kids are going to be naughty!
Santa goes quantum (5:05)
For those of you who are not familiar with Quantum Computing, they replace the normal 0s and 1s of a computer, the bits, with something called qubits. A qubit is a 0 and 1 superimposed in a quantum state along with a probability that the state will resolve into 0 or 1 once the quantum state has collapsed. Now, we could do a whole episode on
Quantum Computing but this ability to have qubits in a probable state of being allows Quantum computers to run equations that conventional computers could only dream of (and yes computers do dream and no it is not of electric sheep but of killing all humans). The largest current Quantum Computer clocks in at around 50 qubits so that Old Stocking Stuffer has at least 1000 qubits burning the midnight mistletoe in order to get the job done.
Add to that a series of spy satellites that cover the entire globe armed with shortwave infra-red sensor readings. BlackSky satellites were just launched in September 2020 with this capability so we can only assume that the World’s Greatest Sleigh Rider has been leveraging it for years so he can see when you are sleeping.
MIT has already created a monitor that uses wifi signals that it bounces off of people to be able to detect whether or not they are moving, how regularly they are breathing and what their heart rate is. The Jolly Red Giant has clearly leveraged the 5G network to do the same on the global scale so now he knows when you are awake.
“We talked about this. This podcast is supposed to be about real problems that are important and how we can solve them. Not about the imaginary logistics of Christmas, OK?”
J Schwan – CEO, Kin + Carta
Very merry logistics (6:30)
OK, so the Fat Man has the intel, he has it in enough time to place orders ahead of the Big Day, now he just needs to get it to you. Obviously, the idea that Old White Beard has his HQ at the North Pole is just a ruse to draw attention away from the fact that he has the most extensive shipping system in the world.
We asked our CEO here at Kin +Carta, J Schwan, what kind of organization that he thought would be needed to pull this off.
J: Guys. We talked about this. This podcast is supposed to be about real problems that are important and how we can solve them. Not about the imaginary logistics of Christmas, OK?
Thanks, J. As always, you are an inspiration to us all.
So how could he do it? Hyperlocal micro-warehouses in every neighborhood across the world. You know from our interview with Andy Whiting of Better Trucks from the
Shippageddon episode that retailers are experimenting with having more small warehouses in population centers to reduce the last mile problem of delivery so we would expect the World’s Oldest Reindeer Jockey to have already pioneered this logistics breakthrough. Six to eight weeks ahead of Christmas, he has his list made, and after a quality control check and ANOTHER quality control check he places the orders giving him ample time to fulfill, ship and deliver to their final staging area IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD.
So now we are in the range of a reasonable effort. Depending on what hemisphere you are in, you have anywhere from 18 hours of darkness in Oslo to 9 1/2 hour of darkness in Melbourne but to make it simple, let’s say they have 12 hours to do their work. A fedex driver can deliver 75 to 125 packages per 8 hour shift, so allowing time for getting in and out of the house, let’s say they could do 100 deliveries in 8 hours or 150 deliveries in 12. The Old Chimney Jumper has to do 160 million deliveries so that means about 1.1 million helpers each with their own mini-warehouse across the world. Now that is on average of course, the Pitcairn Islands have only 50 total Christians so we may need one or two more delivery elves in Slovenia with 1.6 million Christians to pick up the slack.
The ultimate in last mile delivery (8:43)
More daunting would be the Chicago metro area with about 9.5 million people about 70% of whom identify as Christian, or 6.6 million. Sir Gives-a-Lot has his work cut out for him. Only 26% of those are under the age of 18, we are down to 1.7 million kids, and, knowing Chicago as I do, probably only 80% of those kids were good, what with remote learning and all. But I don’t want to get my co-workers and neighbors pissed off at me so I’ll just go with the 85% number from Spy Jr. and put it at 1.4 million kids in 400,000 households. So in Chicago and the surrounding area, we will need to have about 2,700 mini-warehouses packed into 11,000 square miles or about 1 location per 4 miles.
I was trying to come up with the number of churches in the Chicago area and see how that compares to the number of mini-warehouses needed but it looks like that is a hard number to get. A little too hard to get. It seems like that would be an easy number to know like the number of Starbucks, or how much Malort is consumed on a daily basis which makes me think that the Old Toy Slinger is using churches as drop locations.
Look around your neighborhood. There are an awful lot of churches aren’t there? And how often are there services going on there? One day? Two days per week?
Maybe three at the most? What are they doing there the rest of the time? I don’t know for sure but I can guess that starting around Halloween and up until Christmas Eve, they are the drop box for the most sophisticated delivery system known to man.
Can I prove that organized religion is working hand-in-hand with the Great Red Roof Crasher to deliver presents to all the good children of the world? No. Not by myself. So this Christmas Eve if your COVID rates allow you to do so safely, stop by your local church, or maybe just peek in the window, and see if you can spot his helpers as they deliver joy and hope to children of all ages.
That’s it for this episode. We gave Katie Pooler the week off since there is literally no Cooler Term than Christmas. Don’t worry, she will be back with us for our next episode.
Please let us know what you think of our show, drop us a present or a lump of coal at Yulebook, Instalog, ReinedIn or SnapDeer, or just write it in the frosting on your
Christmas cookies. The Spirit of Christmas will make sure we get the message.
If you like our show please subscribe to it on your podcast delivery system of choice and, if you can, leave a review. In the meantime, keep watching. The truth is out there and it could be in your local church.