Santa Part 1: Elfin Magic or Advanced Technology?


‘Tis the season. The decorations are up, the presents are being bought and wrapped, and all the greedy children are dreaming up what they want the fat man in the red suit to give them. No, I’m not talking about Kevin Smith in a Cardinals jersey. I mean Saint Nicholas.  Children tend to believe in Santa Claus flying through the sky in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer (or nine if one counts Rudolph) and delivering toys to all the children of the world (well, the believing ones anyway, as long as they’re good) in one night. And just how does he do it? Elf magic, of course. What a silly thing, huh?

But wait a minute. Arthur C. Clarke once said that technology would one day become so advanced that it would be indistinguishable from magic. So could the Kris Kringle legend be based on elf … technology? Could science have answers to how someone like Santa could actually exist and do his deeds? Methinks we’re going to really have to stretch and speculate on this one. It may even require some pure guesswork in some of the main fields of science. So buckle your seat belt, Blitzen. It’s gonna be quite a bumpy ride.

Now let’s take a quick look at what the Kringlemeister is said to do before we look at what science and technology have to say about it. Once we know what parameters we have to work within, then we can look at replicating the amazing and stupendous elf “magic”.

First of all, according to legend, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. Most believe that he lives in some village with a whole bunch of elves who make toys for the good little girls and boys.  Traditionally, they make basic dolls and wooden toys with primitive hammers, chisels, screws, paint, animal hide, and so on. It’s a quaint little idea, but a bit outdated. A more modern Santa’s Workshop would have to have welding and soldering stations, as well as machinery to mass produce fine electronic devices and the means to produce all types of synthetic materials. There would have to be the means of acquiring various resources, which is hard to do above the Arctic Circle. The only things that grow well at the North Pole are ice, polar bears, undersea animals, and the desire to no longer be at the North Pole.

That doesn't look like an elf village. (Source: NOAA)
That doesn’t look like an elf village. (Source: NOAA)

Then we have to consider that Santa Claus has been doing the same job for the last few centuries. No company time-puncher on earth has that kind of job security! So not only is Santa’s job seemingly perpetual, apparently so is Santa. The average life span of a typical human being in the First World, where it is the longest, doesn’t even come close to centuries!  Some are blessed enough to live well past a century, but they are not in sufficient physical shape at that point to hold down a Santa-like career path. So, assuming Santa hasn’t found what Juan Ponce de León searched his whole life for, that being the Fountain of Youth, we must figure out how the fat man in the red suit overcomes basic biology and stays forever physically fit. Well, other than the whole obesity issue, that is.

Next is the flying sleigh and eight flying reindeer. No, I don’t mean that they’re high on drugs. I mean they actually physically fly! This is no easy task to explain. Neither a sleigh nor a reindeer is aerodynamic, and they’re each a bit heavy. One sleigh plus eight reindeer only makes the matter worse. The question becomes how to get a sleigh, eight reindeer, a really fat guy in a heavy cold weather suit, and a huge bag of toys to all defy the law of gravity.

Only Rudolph is aerodynamic.
Only Rudolph is aerodynamic.

Now here’s one which would have Einstein rolling over in his grave. Or perhaps he would be doing backflips in his grave. The jolly ol’ Saint Nick is supposedly able to deliver presents to tens of millions of good little girls and boys … all in one single night! Light speed and infinite mass are two relativistic barriers that can’t be defied without making more than a few physicists wince. The same goes for friction and wind resistance. The stories tell us that he goes really fast, but says nothing about Santa heating up to the temperature of some of the hottest stars in the universe. So in order to launch the Santa Parcel Service in accordance with legend, it’s time to kick general relativity in the proverbial hind quarters and screw with the space/time continuum. This one could be an adventure just in itself.

Santa is also supposed to have a bag loaded full of goodies to give out to the little kiddos. Tens of millions of tiny tots equals tens of millions of presents to put under tens of millions of decorated Christmas trees. This brings requirements far beyond just an elf chiropractor to fix Santa’s spine. And strangely, somehow, the weight of the bag doesn’t keep the sleigh on the ground and the density of the packages doesn’t generate the gravitational field of a small black hole. (What the &$%# have I gotten myself into?!?!?) I’m sure there’s a way around this problem, and by golly, I’ll figure it out!

Did I forget to mention the whole breaking-and-entering thing? Yes, Santa is also a criminal intruder, regardless of any altruistic motives he might have for himself. The method that legend tells us Santa uses to break into people’s homes while they’re sleeping is by climbing down the chimney. That, however, doesn’t get him into a person’s apartment, mobile home, or other residence that has no chimney to speak of. It would also make sufficient noise that someone, somewhere, would have shot him by now. Could he have another means of entry, like a magic crow bar? And what exactly does he manage to do with all the milk and cookies anyway?

I can relate. (Source: xkcd.com)
I can relate. (Source: xkcd.com)

And just why would someone do this? Could it truly be pure altruism? Or could it be a completely different motive altogether on the part of the elves? What would possess anyone to continue to do these deeds continually on an annual basis? The answers could surprise us.

It would seem I have a bit of a challenge ahead of me. So I shall answer these questions … or go stark raving mad in the attempt. So without further ado, let’s rock this puppy.

Next up, Santa Science Part 2 —>



Daniel C. Handley

Dan Handley was raised a Trekkie, fell in love with "Star Wars" at an early age, and became obsessed with comic book superheroes. He spent his youth dreaming of how to get real superpowers, starships, and so on.

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