How Would Santa Claus Measure His Performance?

Santa is one amazing character.

To avoid disappointing any of the estimated 380 odd million Christian children in the world on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus needs to be capable of some pretty spectacular performances:

  • Santa’s memory is so good, he can recall 380 million childrens’ Christmas wish lists.
  • Santa visits about 970 households per second.
  • To achieve this, his sleigh has to travel at over 1000 kilometres per second (3000 times the speed of sound).
  • The sleigh’s payload (that is, the sack of toys) is estimated at being about 500,000 tonnes.
  • Santa’s reindeer are each 40,000 times stronger and faster than the average ordinary reindeer.
  • Santa’s reindeer, due to air resistance created by the astronomical speeds they travel, each absorb up to 14,300,000,000,000,000,000 joules of energy every second.
  • Each time the sleigh takes off, Santa is subjected to 17,500 g of force (apparently the average human will black out at about 4 or 5 g)

This is an engineer’s perspective on Santa Claus, and it has been suggested that these calculations might be proof that Santa Claus doesn’t really exist. But that’s not the point. These trivial statistics illustrate a few interesting points about performance measures…

Measuring Capability

Measuring what your organisation or process or team is capable of (modelled from past performance) can help you anticipate how likely you are to meet changing stakeholder needs. As the Christian population in the world grows, how much faster will Santa have to travel, and how much more will the sleigh have to carry, and how much more energy will the reindeer have to absorb? How many more toys will the elves have to make?

What kinds of toys will most influence the children of tomorrow to be nice and not naughty?

Measuring Outputs

Santa’s outputs are the results of his activities, what he produces. And what he produces is gifts delivered to Christian children that have been nice and not naughty. Measures of his outputs might include: the % of nice children that did receive a gift, the % of children that received the gift they requested, the % of children that received a gift they loved, the safe return of Santa and the reindeer to the North Pole sometime on Christmas morning.

Outputs are produced over and over again by our business processes, but for the purpose of making some bigger, ultimate set of outcomes happen.

Measuring Outcomes

Measuring activities and outputs might be interesting and easy, but we need to measure the ultimate set of outcomes of our activities and products if we care at all about what we are doing. Santa doesn’t do the Christmas Eve thing because it’s a challenge. He actually really wants to encourage children to be nice and not naughty, and he rewards those children being nice with gifts on Christmas Eve.

Santa’s ultimate outcome measure might be the percentage of children that always behave nicely. He might analyse trends in this information – he has years and years of history, as he’s been at it for around 1600 years.

Santa might also benchmark this measure against the motivators for non-Christian children to be nice and not naughty, to see how well his gift strategy is working.

Linking Outcome Measures to Capability Measures

There is a logical connection among these three types of measures. The capability measures predict the quality of the outputs, and the quality of the outputs predict the quality of the outcomes. If Santa’s elves make the right kinds of toys, then more children will get the gift they want and thus, more children will be influenced by Santa’s message to be nice and not naughty.

Time Travel – A Possibility or Just the Stuff of Science Fiction?

It’s been written about in hundreds of books, the subject of fantasy for everyone at one time or another, and the government has actually devoted research at one time or another on the subject. If you do a search on the Internet for time travel you will find millions of entries on it, and hundreds of websites fully devoted to talking about it. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could travel back in time? You could correct mistakes you’ve made in your life, study any period of time that interests you, not to mention build a financial empire on your foreknowledge of events. Beginning with H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, the concept of time travel has been one of the main staples of science fiction. Some of my favorite reads are David Gerrold’s The Man Who Folded Himself and The Light of Other Days by Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke.

So is it really possible to travel in time?

First of all we are all already time travelers in the sense that time moves forward, and at the same apparent rate of speed, for all of us. There seem to be no obstacles in physics to accelerating the forward momentum of time in one way or another. Cryogenics is a concept much written about as one method of “forward” time travel; lowering the body temperature to a little above absolute zero to nearly stop the metabolism as a way to sleep away millennia. The practical hurdles to this put any possibility of this far into the future. Although simpler organisms have been successfully frozen and returned, the human body is too complex to yet survive the process because of water crystallization and other factors. Another method of accelerating time is time differentials due to the relativistic effects of high velocity.

According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, as an object approaches the speed of light one of the effects is time dilation. As a relativistic object’s speed increases the passage of time slows for it in relation to a non-moving object. Take for example a spacecraft traveling at 10% of the speed of light, or 18,628 miles per second. If this imaginary spacecraft maintained this speed consistently for 24 hours (according to our clocks back home), then at the end of that 24 hours only about 23 hours, 53 minutes would have passed onboard the spacecraft. Much higher speeds to within a fraction of a percent of the speed of light have to be achieved to get a really noticeable effect. Take that same spacecraft and accelerate it to .999999 light speed (or to 186,281.81 miles every second) and something really bizarre happens, achieving something more like time travel. If you take that spacecraft out on a joyride at that speed for 24 hours of your traveler’s time and return home, you will find that almost two years have past on Earth.

In actuality, this has been observed in experiments done when atomic clocks were sent on jetliners to observe the effects of time dilation. The difference was observed as predicted, helping to support Einstein’s theories. Naturally the difference was small, measured in nanoseconds. Unfortunately for any aspiring time travelers, the kind of speeds needed for relativistic effects are still well outside our technology. The fastest spacecraft yet launched were the Helios spacecraft sent to study the sun in the 70s. They achieved speeds of about 158,000mph, or about 44 miles per second; this is about .02% light-speed, still not close to relativistic speeds.

And what about the possibility of travel back in time?

This makes great material for science fiction, but the data here doesn’t seem promising. Physicists have been able to envision certain circumstances under which time travel MAY be allowable under the laws of physics, but the energy levels and exotic matter requirements seem to be well beyond anything we are likely to achieve anytime soon. Some have suggested that wormholes may be bridges to other universes, distant parts of this universe, or other times. Wormholes remain a theoretical concept, neither proven nor dis-proven to exist. It seems that for all practical purposes the universe has (at least temporarily) denied us the opportunity to revisit our past directly. So let us turn to a discussion of what the possibilities would be if time travel did exist.

First of all we must look at the fact put forward by modern physics that space and time are related aspects of the topology of our universe. In other words, our universe consists of the three observable dimensions of space and one of time. Putting together a theory that explains the existence of our universe required combining time and space into one continuum. Assuming this to be true, it follows that there should be a parallel measurement in space equivalent to measurements in time. It may seem nonsensical to talk of measuring space in seconds or time in miles, but the two are tied together through the speed of light. Therefore it follows that to convert one second of time into distance, we simply look at how far light travels in one second. That would be approximately 186,282 miles or three quarters the distance to the moon. This means that traveling one second back in time would be equivalent to traveling nearly the distance to the moon. Then there is the fact that a change in temporal position would mean having to adjust for the motion of the earth, sun and galaxy as they rotate and revolve. A lot harder than it looked, huh? Ok, let’s pretend we overcome this obstacle and achieve real, meaningful time travel. Could you go back in time and kill your grandfather early in his life, assuring that you will never be born? Time travel is full of paradoxes such as this. For the most part this can be overcome by incorporating quantum mechanics into the concept of time travel, and branching realities.

Quantum mechanics is a field of theory which developed in the first quarter of the twentieth century through the work of Niels Bohr, Pauli, Planck, Heisenberg, and Schrodinger. It’s basic tenets are that at a fundamental level matter exists as a cloud of uncertainty and probability. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that one cannot measure both the position and momentum of an elementary particle because the act of observation changes the outcome. In this branch of physics cause and effect is said to break down and one can only state the probability of something being true. The most famous example of what quantum mechanics means in the real world was given as a thought experiment by Erwin Schrodinger and is known as Schrodinger’s Cat. Here it follows:

A cat is placed in a sealed box. Attached to the box is an apparatus containing a radioactive nucleus and a canister of poison gas. This apparatus is separated from the cat in such a way that the cat can in no way interfere with it. The experiment is set up so that there is exactly a 50% chance of the nucleus decaying in one hour. If the nucleus decays, it will emit a particle that triggers the apparatus, which opens the canister and kills the cat. If the nucleus does not decay, then the cat remains alive. According to quantum mechanics the unobserved nucleus is described as a superposition (meaning it exists partly as each simultaneously) of “decayed nucleus” and “undecayed nucleus”. However, when the box is opened the experimenter sees only a “decayed nucleus/dead cat” or an “undecayed nucleus/living cat”.

The paradox of this experiment is that the cat is said to be both dead and alive until someone opens the box. (*No cats or animals of any kind were harmed in the writing of this article). This paradox can be resolved if we say that instead of both being true in one reality, that reality actually branches into two. In one universe the cat is alive and in the parallel universe it is dead. In this way our universe is constantly splitting into alternate universes in which every possibility is encompassed. This also solves the paradoxes of time travel. When our time traveler returns and makes changes in the past he would be creating an alternate universe without destroying the other. In this way, as he or she continued to make changes, our time traveler would never be able to return to their original timeline, although he could create one similar to it with the right changes. All of the possibilities and repercussions of a scenario such as this are spectacularly presented in the science fiction novel The Man Who Folded Himself, by David Gerrold.

In summary, time travel is a highly entertaining concept for science fiction, and actually holds some plausibility in certain concepts of modern physics. But as a practical application, it is not likely to become a part of our lives anytime soon. Of course, not being a time traveler myself, I cannot speak with certainty.

Time will tell.

Budget Travel: How to Travel the Smart Way!

The key to budget travel is to plan ahead. When it comes to
family trips, globetrotting, well-deserved vacations and/or
going to see new places we have never been before, the
reality of cost and budgeting is always in the back of our
minds.

Planning and spending our travel dollar wisely is a priority
for most families. Curbing spending and costs, while still
enjoying your vacation to its fullest, is the key to
guaranteed success and fiscal responsibility. Your
pocketbook and family will thank you!

The reasoning behind saving money while traveling is simple:
Even if your personal budget is extremely tight, you can
still take a break and enjoy life! Simply put, life is just
too short to never step out of the door or leaving the
homestead!

Also remembering that while traveling, whether on a budget
or not, even the smallest of things can all add op to a
large vacation or travel bill!

For example, all those hotel extra’s, cab-fares, tips,
restaurants, car rentals, gas for your own vehicle if on a
road trip, tickets for special attractions or events,
beach-and-pool-side drinks (if not at an all-inclusive
resort or cruise) and more, adds on and piles up!

This brings us to the some of the rhyme and reason behind
budgeting for travel and planning well. This also applies
monetarily, to ensure your trip is a success, enjoyable and
memorable. Your outlook could be a balance between
replenishing your resources and not breaking the bank in the
process!

How to make “SMART” travel goals that are achievable.

(You may find yourself at the resort of your dreams if you follow
these steps) .

Like anything else in life, travel needs to be planned for
somewhat. It is almost like setting a short-time ‘SMART’
goal for leisure and vacationing. Marketers of time-share
and destination vacations, often refer to this as an
argument to invest in a travel solution.

People often suggest that we treat travel or vacationing,
like any other planned financial decision in life. This is
all irrespective of whether this includes house, car,
tuition, health, insurance or other life-expense. Travel and
vacation is justified and ‘sold’, as just another important
item on the list to think about and budget for.

Setting goals is described and accepted as a powerful tool
to achieve success and keeps people motivated.

Out of the list of dream destinations you just made or have
in mind, you cannot possibly achieve reaching all of them,
and nor should you perhaps. One can but wish and dream …
Going after these dreams in a planned fashion, will mean a
significant investment of time, money, energy, talent, and
opportunities. You will need to prioritize.

Prioritizing should include travel items, trips, goals and
destinations that you really desire to visit, see, conquer,
treasure, explore and would love to achieve in your
lifetime.

Realizing of course that these ‘dreams’ though, might not
all be achievable immediately, or at all. You need to view
this as a wish list, shortlist eventually becoming
checklist! Then, move on to making at least the first goal
or location visit on the list happen this year!
(Alternatively, as soon as funds allow and you are able to
make it happen).

Hands-on work, defining and planning for travel in such a
way that it will convey an actual goal or goals,
destinations, budgets and periods.

A goal, in order to be effective and drive people towards
it, should have the following characteristics. The goal
should be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic,
and Time-constrained. In other words, it must be a SMART
goal, (as referred to earlier).

SPECIFIC: The travel goal(s) should be specific. Detail is
what matters here. Avoid generalizations; get to the point
and crux of the matter. Specify your immediate travel needs
and means. Then plan to go after it pro-actively.

For example, take that tropical island, destination dream
vacation: “I have always wanted to …” seems a little
general when compared to ‘I will travel, with my family to
Hawaii for a vacation of two weeks within the next six
months.’

MEASURABLE: The SMART travel goal must be measurable. This
goes along with being specific. A goal defined specifically
might already be measurable. The abovementioned goal stated
intention, involved parties, location, purpose and a
timeframe – all measurable elements.

A measurable travel goal, like going to Hawaii, with a
family of four, including two children under the age of
five, within the next six months helps you identify, plan,
execute and track more efficiently and increase your odds of
actually making it there! Considering the logistics in this
fashion, makes it that more realistic to enable your family
to take the planned trip of a lifetime, as opposed to just
dreaming about it!

ACTION-ORIENTED: A SMART goal must also be action oriented.
It cannot merely be stated. You must relate the goal to
doing something, to indicate what needs to be done. An
action verb will indicate what needs to be accomplished. “I
will travel” is a good example of an action statement,
stated intent and implies preparation and planning, will and
persistence.

REALISTIC: For any goal to be motivational and get you
committed to reaching it, it must be realistic. When a goal
is not realistic and the person does not really believe it
can be reached, then the commitment is lacking and the
effort will not be there to permit the goal to be realized.

Choosing realistic goals are based on your present status.
What jumps to mind right away in our example, is whether and
how you can afford it and make it happen! (Hopefully this
guide can also offer some tips to get your there).

TIME-CONSTRAINED: In order for a goal to move people towards
it, it must be time-constrained. A timeline needs to be
associated with it. It will entice people to move towards
the goal. The timeline set, will be based on the goal itself
and the present status. Six months is stated here as a
realistic timeline, leaving enough time to save for, plan,
book and take your well-deserved vacation to Hawaii (as in
our stated example),OR anywhere else YOU have chosen to go!

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