There is no Santa

There are probably no young children who read this blog, so I am sure the title is not a shock to you. I read a report recently which now proves that Santa can’t exist and it gives all the reasons.

Firstly reindeer can’t fly. But humans don’t know everything so there is a very very small chance that a flying reindeer exists, only we haven’t yet discovered it.

Secondly there are about 378,000,000 (378 million) Christian children in the world. If there are 3.5 children in each house then Santa needs to visit about 92,000,000 (92 million) homes. If Santa flies from east to west he has about 31 hours to deliver the gifts. This means he must visit about 800 homes every second. So he jumps down the chimney, puts a present in each stocking, eats a snack, and gets back up the chimney and into the sleigh in about 0.001 seconds. And Santa is overweight!

Thirdly there is the speed of Santa’s sleigh. Santa needs to travel about 1 hundred million (100,000,000) kilometres in 31 hours, which is a speed of about 1,000 kilometres every second. The fastest speed for any man-made vehicle is about 30 km per second (the Ulysees space probe), so this speed is much much faster than anything we now know.

Fourthly is the weight of the presents. If every child gets a small size present then the sleigh would have to carry about 300,000 tons, and would need about 200,000 reindeer to pull the sleigh. The total weight of the presents, the reindeer and of course Santa would be about the same as 4 cruise ships, and the amount of power needed to make this fly is too huge to calculate.

Lastly 300,000 tons travelling at 1,000 km per second would heat up the reindeer so quickly that they would catch fire and burn in about 0.004 seconds, and so would Santa.

So, if Santa exists, he is killed less than a second after his sleigh starts to move. I hope this doesn’t spoil your Christmas.


Singular and plural

Countable nouns can be counted. In English it is important if there is ‘one’ (singular) or ‘more than one’ (plural).

The singular noun is simply the base form of that noun, for example: pen, baby, bus, potato, piano.

If there is more than one then we need to use the plural. Most plurals are formed by adding ‘s’ or ‘es’ to the base noun, for example: pens, babies (don’t forget ‘y’ changes to ‘i’), buses, potatoes, pianos.

Some nouns (but not all) which end in ‘f’ change the ‘f’ to ‘v’ and add ‘es’, for example: wolf/wolves, knife/knives, shelf/shelves.

This should be pretty easy for most of you, but you need to be careful because there are a few irregular nouns, for example:

child/children, foot/feet, mouse/mice, tooth/teeth, person/people, woman/women.

Though I think you probably know most of these too. But don’t forget that some nouns have the same singular and plural forms, for example:

sheep/sheep, fish/fish, series/series, crossroads/crossroads.

And there are some plurals which are very strange, for example:

bacterium/bacteria, cactus/cacti, criterion/criteria, fungus/fungi, medium/media, oasis/oases, stadium/stadia, vertebra/vertebrae.

And finally there are some nouns which have no singular, and are plural only, for example:

clothes, congratulations, goods, manners, police, savings, thanks.

Plus many nouns which are considered to be in a ‘pair’, which are also plural only, for example:

scissors, pants, tights, jeans, binoculars, spectacles and scales.

However we say ‘no pens’ or ‘no babies’, so zero is plural! But six babies are better than no babies, so please look at the sextuplets below.

World Aids Day

How many people died in Japan in 2006 as a result of Aids? About 1,400 (according to the UN). And how many people died in South Africa? About 320,000.

Aids (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is caused by the virus HIV (human immuno-deficiency virus), and anyone with Aids loses resistance to disease, especially pneumonia, which can then lead to death.

There are about 40 million people in the world living with HIV, and about 27 million of these live in sub-Saharan Africa (south of the Sahara Desert), and this figure is increasing.

This increase is due to high-risk behaviour, such as injecting drug use, unprotected paid-for sex, and unprotected sex between men. Across the world women are now more likely to be affected by HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa there are 40% more women with HIV than men.

Aids is now so common in sub-Saharan Africa that it is affecting food supplies and education. The UN predicts that 16 million farmers will die in the next 20 years. Many families are now headed by women, children or grandparents, and these people often lack the skills and strength to look after farms. And it is not only the farmers, but also the teachers, doctors and young businesspeople who are dying from Aids. These are key positions in society and in some areas education is near to collapse, and society is starting to break down.

Every year December 1st is World Aids Day, when the UN reminds us of the problems caused by Aids around the world. But it is still difficult for me to imagine a situaton like Swaziland (a small country in southern Africa), where 33% of people are HIV positive.

Your chance to win $999,999

Congratulations, you are the 999,999th visitor to this site. Please click here to win $999,999.

This is not real. This is not true. This is a hoax. You are not the 999,999th visitor, you are about the 1,700th.

Last week I received a private comment from a student who was the 999,999th visitor to a Yahoo site, and was able to win a lot of money. This student was worried if the site contained spyware, so the student left the site immediately. But this student was also worried that a chance to get a lot of money was lost.

I couldn’t reply privately to this student by e-mail, so I decided to answer through the blog.

I am not a computer expert but I think that this hoax is not for spyware. I also think that if you try to get the money then you will be asked for your bank account number, so the money can be transferred to your account. But the opposite happens. Someone takes all the money from your account.

In my case they wouldn’t get much because there is very little in my account, but it would be a shock, and cause a lot of problems with my bank.

So the best thing is to leave the site and forget all about it. The student was very wise.

Shut up!

No, this is not what I said to my students. This is what one student said to another student.

‘Shut up’ is a great phrase, isn’t it? The words are short and sharp and you can say them with real emotion.

‘To shut’ is a verb, and the past form and past participle (pp) are very easy to remember because they are ‘shut, shut’. Basically ‘to shut’ means the same as ‘to close’. For example ‘The shop closes/shuts at 7pm’, where either is used.

Be careful, don’t confuse the verb ‘to close’ with the adjective ‘close’, meaning ‘near’, the spellings are the same but the pronunciation is different, ‘to close’ sounds more like ‘to cloze’.

‘To close’ is better than ‘to shut’ for slow movements like flowers closing at night, and we also close roads (for repair), bank accounts and meetings. And ‘to shut’ is preferred for quick movements, like ‘shut the window, it’s freezing in here’.

So ‘shut up’ is a really strong phrase, but I’m sure my student had a very good reason to use it and, if you want to be even more forceful next time, you can try ‘shut your mouth!’