Santa's Route planning department and his payload planning department have to work together. He does not have time to search through multiple sacks at each chimney for the right items, the sleigh needs to be loaded with the precision of a FedEx or UPS truck - the next present must be next to hand. So load and route sequence are inextricably linked.

We suspect the sleigh and reindeer must have elven teleport abilities (whether wormhole or other transdimensional passage or some anti-relativistic quirk), since the Classical acceleration required to make all the required stops in a mere `30` to 50 hours (from International Date Line (IDL) date start to IDL date stop) is horrendous, and the sonic booms would have been reported. Besides, his time on station at each stop improves dramatically if both up-the-chimney and roof to roof are instantaneous.

Let's check the calculations on `Scientific Santa`'s explanation. Absolute precision is not required for optimization, they need plan and replan … fast; and "the best" is the enemy of good enough. So the Elven planners and their Neptunian outsourced IT staff use `Math::BigApprox` as an electronic sliderule for back-of-the envelope estimates when they fear blowout of floating point in their scripts (and `Frink` for interactive use).

Following `Scientific Santa`, we start with the UNICEF world child census and deduce the physics equation by equation.

```
2.106000e+09 children per unicef
8.424000e+08 stops (children/2.5)
3.141593e+00 pi
3.986000e+03 Re Earth radius, miles.
1.996570e+08 area sq. miles.
5.790052e+07 populated area (dry 29%) sq. miles.
6.873281e-02 area each, sq.miles / houses
2.621694e-01 mean distance, miles (sqrt area each)
2.208515e+08 mileage= houses * mean distance; miles
1.728000e+05 seconds total flight
2.051282e-04 Time between each, s
1.278076e+03 speed avg, miles/second
4.601074e+06 speed avg, miles/hr
4.601074e+06 speed avg, m/s (metric)
6.134765e+03 Mach - web page off x1000 !
3.000000e+08 C, speed of light, metric, m/s
1.458531e+02 ratio C:spd :: _:1
4.010885e+10 acceleration m/s/s
4.092740e+09 accel G's
1.914545e+12 Cargo grams
4.212000e+09 Cargo Lbs (2 Lbs/Child)
7.679021e+19 F=ma: Force, Newtons
1.7e+7153006998 traveling salesman, houses!
```

We find the `Scientific Santa` slipped a decimal on Mach number, but otherwise holds up with assumptions given.

(Of course, out-sourcing delivery to various cultural gift bringers - Befanna, Three Kings/The Magi, Grandfather Winter, Pere Noel, St Basil, Christ Child, Ste Lucia, Father Christmas, Old Man Frost, Tio Nadal (Uncle Xmas), etc, greatly aids Santa's actual workload. And their team being able to do some households on St.Stephens Day or Three Kings Day or Solstice Eve or Lucia's Day also helps them all.)

Alas, even calculating the size of their un-structured Traveling Salesman problem as `Fact($houses)
` takes 13 hours (47,212 seconds).

```
fact 1e1 = 3628800 [0s]
fact 1e2 = 9.33262154e+157 [0s]
fact 1e3 = 4.0238726 e+2567 [0s]
fact 1e4 = 2.84626 e+35659 [0s]
fact 1e5 = 2.82423 e+456573 [1s]
fact 1e6 = 8.2639 e+5565708 [6s]
fact 1e7 = 1.202 e+65657059 [70s]
fact 1e8 = 1.62 e+756570556 [646s]
2.106000e+09 children
8.424000e+08 houses
traveling salesman
fact 842400000 = 1.6e+7153006998 [47212s]
=end pre
```

This is hyperexponential, I would have expected 2 hours.

So they have to replace `Math::BigApprox`'s Fact() with `Stirling's Approximation` when N is large enough that M:BA is barely keeping precision beyond order of magnitude anyway.

```
fact 1e1 = 3598695.6187 [0s]
fact 1e2 = 9.32484763e+157 [0s]
fact 1e3 = 4.0235373 e+2567 [0s]
fact 1e4 = 2.846236 e+35659 [0s]
fact 1e5 = 2.82423 e+456573 [0s]
fact 1e6 = 8.2639 e+5565708 [0s]
fact 1e7 = 1.202 e+65657059 [0s]
fact 1e8 = 1.62 e+756570556 [0s]
fact 1e9 = 1 e+8565705523 [0s]
fact 1e10 = 2 e+95657055186 [0s]
fact 1e11 = 1 e+1056570551820 [0s]
fact 1e12 = 1359 e+11565705518100 [0s]
fact 1e13 = 1 e+125657055181000 [0s]
fact 1e14 = 1 e +1.35657055181 e+15 [0s]
2.106000e+09 children
8.424000e+08 houses
traveling salesman
fact 842400000 = 1.7e+7153006998 [0s]
=end pre
```

This performs in constant time, which is pretty good.

1.7e+7_153_006_998. Ten to the 7 Billion. That's large. That many routes to optimize between is obviously not going to be precisely solved! Can the Eleven Planners and Neptunian IT find a fast enough good enough approximation in time to save Christmas?

(To Be Continued)

1 #! perl -lw 2 3 use warnings; 4 use strict; 5 6 # require Math::BigApprox; 7 use Math::BigApprox qw( c Prod ); 8 9 # Pi - 10 # if it was BigFloat, I'd use 11 # 3.14159_26535_89793_23846_26433_83279_50288_41971_69399; 12 # but with Math::BigApprox 13 my $pi = c( 355 / 113 ); # is good enough, better than 22/7, better than 3.14159 14 15 # oddly, 16 # $pi = c(sqrt sqrt (9**2 + 19**2/22)); # is also as good. http://xkcd.com/217/ 17 # http://use.perl.org/~n1vux/journal/32292 18 # http://use.perl.org/~n1vux/journal/32686 19 20 # Factorial - 21 # Override Factorial if Stirling approximation good enough 22 23 sub Stirling { 24 25 # Stirlings approximate formula for Factorial 26 # http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stirling%27s_formula 27 my $x = shift; 28 my $n = ref $x eq "Math::BigApprox" ? $x : c($x); 29 return sqrt( 2 * $pi * $n ) * ( $n / exp(1) )**$n; 30 } 31 32 sub Fact { return $_[0] > 1e4 ? Stirling shift : Math::BigApprox::Fact shift; } 33 34 # ----------------------- 35 36 my $children = c( 2.106 * 10**9 ); # billion children aged under 18 UNICEF 37 38 #when? update? 39 printf "%e %s\n", $children, q{children per unicef}; 40 41 my $houses = $children / 2.5; #Assume there are 2.5 children a house 42 43 printf "%e stops (children/2.5)\n", 44 $houses; # 842 million stops on Christmas Eve 45 46 printf "%e %s\n", $pi, q{pi}; 47 48 my $radius = c(3_986); # earth, miles 49 printf "%e %s\n", $radius, q{Re Earth radius, miles. }; 50 51 my $area = ( $radius**2 ) * $pi * 4; 52 printf "%e %s\n", $area, q{area sq. miles. }; 53 54 $area = $area * 0.29; # % dry 55 56 printf "%e %s\n", $area, q{populated area (dry 29%) sq. miles. }; 57 $area = $area / $houses; 58 printf "%e %s\n", $area, q{area each, sq.miles / houses}; 59 60 my $distPer = sqrt $area; 61 62 printf "%e %s\n", $distPer, q{mean distance, miles (sqrt area each)}; 63 64 my $dist = $distPer * $houses; 65 66 printf "%e %s\n", $dist, q{mileage= houses * mean distance; miles}; 67 68 my $time = c(48) # hours IDL to IDL 69 * 60 * 60; # sec 70 printf "%e %s\n", $time, q{seconds total flight}; # 71 72 my $timePer = $time / $houses; #s 73 printf "%e %s\n", $timePer, q{Time between each, s}; # 74 75 my $speed = $dist / $time; #mi p s 76 77 printf "%e %s\n", $speed, q{speed avg, miles/second}; # 78 79 my $milePerMetre = 1 / ( 80 5_280 # ft/mi 81 * 12 # in/ft 82 * 2.54 # cm/in 83 * 1 / 100 # m/cm 84 ) # 1/(m/mi) = mi/m 85 ; 86 87 my $speedMetric = $speed / $milePerMetre; # mps 88 89 $speed = $speed * 3600; #MPH 90 91 printf "%e %s\n", $speed, q{speed avg, miles/hr}; 92 printf "%e %s\n", $speed, q{speed avg, m/s (metric)}; 93 94 printf "%e %s\n", $speed / 750, q{Mach - web page off x1000 !}; 95 96 # web page slipped 3 decimals here !! 97 98 my $C = 3E8; # speed of light, metric, mps 99 printf "%e %s\n", $C, q{C, speed of light, metric, m/s}; 100 printf "%e %s\n", 1 / ( $speedMetric / $C ), 101 q{ratio C:spd :: _:1}; # speed/C, in mps 102 103 ######### 104 # acceleration 105 # Article is off by at least a factor of two here, must accell and then decell. 106 # to average S, must accelerate to twice that and brake just as hard. 107 108 # Real math is 109 # R = 0.5 a*t**2. in this case, 110 # R = 2 * (0.5 a* (dt/2)**2) 111 # $dist = $a (timePer/2)**2 112 113 my $accell = $distPer / # miles 114 ( 115 $milePerMetre * ( ( $timePer / 2 )**2 ) # s.s 116 ); 117 printf "%e %s\n", $accell, q{acceleration m/s/s}; 118 119 my $g = c(9.8); # g=9.8m/s/s at surface 120 printf "%e %s\n", $accell / $g, q{accel G's}; 121 122 ########## 123 # Cargo 124 125 my $Cargo = ( 2 / 2.2 ) # kg 126 * $children; 127 printf "%e %s\n", $Cargo * 1000, q{Cargo grams}; 128 printf "%e %s\n", $Cargo * 2.2, q{Cargo Lbs (2 Lbs/Child)}; 129 130 printf "%e %s\n", $Cargo * $accell, q{F=ma: Force, Newtons}; 131 132 # work 133 # food callories / 12 reindeer 134 135 print Fact($houses), q{ traveling salesman, houses!}; 136 137 # printf "%e %s\n", c(1) << 31, q{2^31 for comparison}; 138 # 2.147484e+09 2^31 for comparison 139 # use POSIX qw(FLT_MAX DBL_MAX); 140 # printf "%e %s\n", DBL_MAX, q{DBL_MAX for comparison}; 141 # 1.797693e+308 DBL_MAX for comparison 142 # printf "%e %s\n", FLT_MAX, q{FLT_MAX for comparison}; 143 # 3.402823e+38 FLT_MAX for comparison 144

Math::BigApprox certainly has its uses. While for most purposes 1.797693e+308 DBL_MAX for 32 bit perl is quite adequate, there are times when the extended range of Math::BigWhatever is needed but not the costly precision. With the Stirling approximation, it did let me compute factorial 10^30 which is sometimes necessary.