We all know the traditional Christmas Eve scene of Santa flying in his sleigh through the crisp night air, pulled by his troop of reindeers. Over the years, debate has raged in the scientific community as to just how he could be pulling off this feat.
We still don’t know how he does it. But recent speculation suggests that Santa may been fooling us all, and that nowadays – through advances in his Elf technology – he completes his Dec 24th deliveries with ease, leaving time to spare for showboating and for distracting adults and children alike to ensure that the magic of Christmas is never broken.
The Argument for Sleigh-based Delivery
Our theory is that Santa + Sleigh + Reindeers + A little magic was easily sufficient to complete the mission in the early years of the Christmas Tradition, when the world’s population was much lower that it is now.
As the population increased, Santa and his elves were able to plug the gap with technology, and no-doubt some time-bending magic, to juice-up his sleigh so that it could travel increasingly quickly year-on-year in order to get to the growing number of children.
The Atmosphere Problem
During this technological progression, the first “wall” was hit when his delivery requirements necessitated travel at speeds approaching the speed of light because moving at this speed in Earth’s atmosphere would cause him to burn up due to friction.
Further technologies such as Batmobile-like Pimping for his Sleigh, complete with honeycombed titanium alloy runners (which are incredibly lightweight and strong), laser sensors (for detecting wind conditions and thermals), and an nanastructure skin to drastically reduce drag and cold-fusion powered jetpacks, may also have helped.
Inter-dimensional Christmas Present Delivery
But even with all of the gadgetry in the world, there is a limit to linear delivery of presents by sleigh: you can only speed things up so much. With the world’s population hitting 6 billion or so, it now seems like Santa must, at some point in the not-too-distant past, have hit the physical limit of linear Christmas present delivery, and overcome it by going inter-dimensional.
It has been suggested Santa may have evolved to utilising multiple dimensions (string theory allows for up to 26) in order to remove the physical barriers to delivery capacity in this dimension.
This is interesting, but the likely mechanism was not very clear – to us at least – until astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson weighed in with a brilliant hypothesis during this short interview on NPR.
Neil suggests that Santa has developed a technology akin to that used by Monsters Inc. wherein his HQ has a direct portal (actually a wormhole) to each home.
If Neil is correct it would mean that Santa’s HQ has something like a (or perhaps an actual) door that leads to the Christmas tree of every child on Earth whose family participates in the Christmas Tradition.
To us, this makes perfect sense. It has long been a troubling aspect of Santology that on one hand the sleigh-delivery approach seemed to be insufficient to explain how gifts could be delivered to so many children, while on the other hand it the inter-dimensional approach seemed completely abstract.
So we feel that Neil De Grasse Tyson’s hypothesis is a vital step towards our understanding of Santa’s Christmas Eve exploits. But it leaves one important question hanging in the night sky:
What is NORAD Tracking?
It is well known that in the post-Cold War era, NORAD spends some of its time tracking Santa’s progress across the globe on Christmas Eve. So obviously the sleigh is still taken out, dusted down and flown across the Earth on Dec 24th. The question is: Why?
Neil De Grasse Tyson has a 2-point hypothesis as to why the sleigh still flies, and it is comfortingly simple:
- Keeping up appearances. While the actual deliveries will be made via wormholes, Santa knows the importance of the iconic imagery of Christmas, so has a quick scoot across the atmosphere in the full knowledge that NORAD (and any naughty children who are not asleep) will see him. After that he still had plenty of time to do the deliveries.
- Preserving the magic of Christmas through distraction tactics. The one thing that would shatter the magic of Christmas for everyone is for a child to actually catch Santa in the act of placing presents under the tree. Because of this, Santa has always gone to great lengths to make sure he is never caught. Conveniently, the old Sleigh-Delivery method makes his life easier in this regard because while anyone who is (naughtily) still awake is distracted by searching the sky for his sleigh, and watching the chimney for his boots, Santa simply wormholes straight to the tree, does the delivery, and wormholes out.
So Let’s Tie This All up into a Mushy, but Important, Christmas Message
Santa has worked hard to develop a technology that means he can keep delivering the magic of Christmas to us all, despite the fact that his job gets harder each year.
Just like Santa, whenever the human race meets a barrier, we always find a way to overcome it and at the heart of each and every solution – technological or otherwise – is human understanding and co-operation.
This Christmas, let’s resolve to understand and co-operate with each other just a little more than before, so we can keep breaking down the barriers and solving our problems.