1464: Santa

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
(Redirected from 1464)
Jump to: navigation, search
He probably just poops over the side of the sleigh.
Title text: He probably just poops over the side of the sleigh.


This was the Christmas comic for 2014 and broadly speaking, this comic follows a long list of issues raised about physical limitations Santa Claus faces, similar to other popular theoretical discussions such as the speed he has to travel and the omniscience he purportedly possesses and the mass of presents he has to carry — the story of Santa Claus was simply never designed for a world with over 7 billion people (and certainly not 8) spread through untold millions of homes. This comic combines some basic physiology with the physical law of the conservation of mass.

More specifically, this comic refers to the common tradition of leaving milk and cookies out on Christmas Eve for Santa Claus. If one assumes that Santa eats even a small percentage of the sweets left out for him, the question comes up where all the cookies go. Megan suggests that, since Santa isn't that large, he must poop them out somewhere, and wonders if he does so in our houses.

Cueball doubts that. Megan replies that mass cannot disappear completely; it has to go somewhere, to which Cueball comments that Santa has a magic bag in which he could poop. The magic bag referenced is the bag in which he carries all the Christmas presents he delivers on Christmas Eve. It is called 'magic' because a bag large enough to carry billions of presents would be much too heavy and unbalanced to carry on a sleigh pulled by only eight (or nine) reindeer. Thus, it must be magic somehow. Megan is disgusted at the thought of Santa pooping on people's presents. An even more disgusting explanation is that the 'magic' bag might transform the poop into presents, in which case it would not need to carry many presents at a time.

Cueball proposes a third theory: that Santa only poops in a few houses, leaving large quantities in those houses. Megan says that there may not be anyone that naughty in the world, referencing the myth that Santa will leave coal instead of presents for those who misbehave. Cueball replies that it is randomly determined whose house is pooped in, burdening a smaller number of people. Specifically, Cueball quotes the beginning of Spock's aphorism from Star Trek II, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." The quote is used to justify the sacrifice people make in "allowing" Santa to poop in their homes by citing the numerous other people who are spared his feces.

The title text puts forth yet another theory: that Santa doesn't poop in houses at all, but off the side of his sleigh. This may be equally disgusting to anyone or anything unlucky enough to abruptly receive a rain of poop from the sky.[citation needed] This problem could be minimized by taking advantage of flights over water or uninhabited areas, rather than cities.

According to 1070: Words for Small Sets, a few is referring to "anywhere from 2 to 5". Currently, there are 1.9 billion children in the world, so assuming on average that one cookie is left for Santa for each child and that Santa eats one in every 5 cookies, he consumes 380 million cookies in two 48 hour periods. Due to the convenience of time zones, approximately 48 hours from when a day starts in Kiritimati until it ends in Hawaii; also, most western Christians, including Roman Catholics and Protestants, observe Christmas almost two weeks before Eastern Orthodox Christians do. According to Google, a chocolate-chip cookie contains approximately 140 kilocalories, therefore Santa consumes 53.2 billion kilocalories in the period of 2 days, or 26.6 billion kilocalories per day. As the average human daily intake is 2500 kilocalories per day, Santa has eaten 10,640,000 times the amount of daily kilocalories required by one human over the period of two days, an amount otherwise sufficient to last for over 59,111 years for a human, and producing 20 million pounds of feces. However, if we consider the dietary requirements of both Santa and the flying reindeer, and the kilocalories that reindeer would burn flying around the world carrying 1.9 billion toys, the cookies might not be sufficient. If the 1 in 5 cookies are not sufficient energy intake, Santa could probably eat every cookie left for him, which amounts to 266 billion kilocalories in the period of 2 days.

On a side note, this amount of energy is enough to power several thousand homes for a year.


Megan: Say Santa eats a cookie at every few houses. That's hundreds of tons. By the end of the night, he should be a hulking seven-story behemoth.
But he's not.
Cueball: What are you...
Megan: Does Santa poop in our houses?
Cueball: No way.
Megan: That mass must be going somewhere.
Cueball: He has that magic bag...
Megan: You think he poops in the bag of presents?
Cueball: Maybe instead of pooping in every few houses, he waits, and then in a few houses, he poops a lot.
Megan: What if no one's been that naughty?
Cueball: He picks at random. The needs of the many...


  • Although this is the only "real" Christmas comic to come out around Christmas, the next comic could be seen as a possible item that would be on xkcd fans Christmas wishlist... the xkcd Phone 2.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


Merry Christmas! --RenniePet (talk) 06:29, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

I think I have done the transcript... 17jiangz1 (talk) 06:38, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

And I did the explanation and put everything in there, I think. Looks like we're already pretty much done! 06:44, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

I am not sure the word Puportedly fits here: "the omniscience he purportedly possesses". I think Purportedly means the character/caricature is carrying on the idea that.... -- Weatherlawyer (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

It should maybe be mentioned that this comic is a turn of the screw on the many "The physics of Santa" joke articles - The usual chain e-mail or satire web page calculations that take it seriously the logistical calculations for Santa and end up concluding that he should beat the speed of light to deliver the presents. Randall doesn't settle on calculating the logistics for reindeer performance or route planning, he goes a step further and makes the calculations for the refuse. 08:31, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

Well maybe all those calories are what allows him to move at the insane relativistic speeds needed to visit every house on Christmas eve. 08:47, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

Exactly. And even if it wasn't, there'd still be a Mr Fusion for the poop. 22:18, 24 December 2014 (UTC)
There's no need to move at relativistic or trans-light speeds when you can appear in multiple places simultaneously [1]. - Equinox 17:41, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

We have video proof of how Santa handles this! http://youtu.be/b9TTz3R5SmI --Elipongo (talk) 09:03, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

No Christmas cat.? Halfhat (talk) 12:12, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

Santa's metabolic system is perfectly efficient at converting cookies to CO2 hang H2O which is exhaled. He needs to be efficient at converting cookie energy if he plans on being so active. He is also the main source of global warming. 13:11, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

As a third option, what if Santa doesn't eat the cookies at all, but just redistributes them to other hungry children? -- 18:41, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

What part of the tradition(s) force an entity to eat more than he requires or wants? Since there is generally supposed to be a chimney involved in his manifestations, why would he have to eat them rather than deal with them in the more traditional way of dealing with things that get sacrificed. Or any other way he chooses. If he has just made romm in his sack, he could easily store a few offerings in it. Why has nobody considered the children?Weatherlawyer (talk) 18:13, 5 January 2015 (UTC)

Perhaps understandably, I first read the line in the explanation as " ... butt off the side of his sleigh." Miamiclay (talk) 22:27, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

As a native English speaker, I'd like to say that "few" is relative, and defies any hard limits. A "few" transistors, for me, might mean dozens (as opposed to hundreds or more). A "few"lightyears might be 10 or so. The use of the word "few" can't be analyzed with such hard limits as 2 to 5. 17:47, 25 December 2014 (UTC)

There are only a few countries where kids leave cookies for Santa (I'm guessing North America and some European countries). That would mean fewer than 100 million kids. 05:36, 26 December 2014 (UTC)

32% of the world population are christians, and even some non-christians celebrate Christmas. 17jiangz1 (talk) 09:56, 26 December 2014 (UTC)
Yes, but leaving cookies for Santa is not integral part of christian Christmas celebration, not speaking about non-christian. There are more children who believe Santa is bringing them gifts than children who are leaving cookies for Santa. -- Hkmaly (talk) 13:53, 27 December 2014 (UTC)
Some children may be leaving cookies "for Santa", but suspect that their parents (or older siblings) are actually consuming them. It may be possible that Santa is not consuming as many cookies as this comic estimates. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Maybe, but he's gotta be eating most of them. There's no way parents can eat all those cookies in one night! 07:24, 28 December 2014 (UTC)
Cookies aren't (traditionally) left in the UK. Even with the usual translation of "cookie" as "biscuit". A glass of sherry and a mince pie is our variant (at least locally to me), and of course a carrot for Rudolph. Or one or other of whichever of the on-duty reindeer is next due a nibble, which would somewhat mitigate the problem of "carrot throughput" similar to the cookie one, although ultimately mid-air ejection is probably the answer in their case anyway. 20:42, 28 December 2014 (UTC)

And despite the chill of the upper atmosphere where Santa would be flying, no one has yet made the joke that, even in this post-Cold War era, there's still reason to be concerned about Icy BMs. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Santa, instead of eating and flushing the cookie excrement, he could just flush the cookies down the toilet. Why do all of the cookies have to go through santa's digestive system? 06:03, 17 January 2015 (UTC)

What if Santa just converted the mass of the cookies to energy to power his sleigh? 02:33, 6 May 2015 (UTC)

Obviously he either goes to the bathroom in their houses. Or his stomach is four dimensional and the mass of the cookies is stored elsewhere. Or he has a magic device on his sleigh that provides the extra lift needed to hoist the two billion presents in the air. It's shit powered.

Also isn't "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or one" a Marx quote, of which Spock was referencing because Star Trek = Space Commies? (Also that brings me to a thought I had when I was 14... ignoring the technical realities aside of how only boojie children get boojie presents, a real Santa would give to all children equally based on how good they have been... Is the "real" Santa a commie? Let's just slap the hammer and sickle on that red suit of his, shall we, haha)

Easy solution. Santa stuffs the cookies in a box in his magic bag, and eats them over the course of the next year. Or he sells them off to get money to outweigh the materials cost of the presents.International Space Station (talk) 17:14, 19 April 2016 (UTC)

Maybe Santa just uses public restrooms. 18:12, 17 December 2020 (UTC)