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Science Idle

The Science of Santa 223

Hugh Pickens writes writes "For decades, mystified scientists have chalked up Santa's power to the inexplicable wonder of magic, but North Carolina State University aerospace engineer Larry Silverberg, team leader on a first-of-its-kind visiting scholars program at Santa's Workshop-North Pole Labs (NPL), says that Santa is, in fact, a scientific genius and that Silverberg looks forward to Christmas each year, so he can ponder the remarkable accomplishments of one of the greatest pioneers in his field. 'Santa is not just a jolly old elf,' says Silverberg. 'He really has an understanding of engineering, technology, science that's far beyond our own.' It all starts at the North Pole where Santa has an elaborate technical setup that rivals the nerve center of the CIA including an underground antenna that listens to children's thoughts. 'He takes those signals and finds out whether the child has been naughty or nice, and ultimately, what present the child wants.' Santa's mastery of nanotechnology allows Santa to grow presents on the spot eschewing the necessity of carrying them on the sleigh which would be prohibitive because of the weight. Then there's Santa's sleigh itself, an advanced aerodynamic structure equipped with laser sensors to find the optimal path, and covered by a nanostructured 'skin' that is porous and contains its own low-pressure system, which holds the air flowing around the airborne sled onto the body, reducing drag by as much as 90 percent. Finally there's Santa's greatest invention, the relativity cloud, that bends time and space to allow for his round-the-world Christmas journey and explains why Santa is so seldom seen. 'Relativity clouds are controllable domains – rips in time – that allow him months to deliver presents while only a few minutes pass on Earth. The presents are truly delivered in a wink of an eye.'"
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The Science of Santa

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  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @11:08AM (#38488126) Homepage Journal
    Santa Claus derives from St. Nicholas, who was someone lived around early byzantine era in western anatolia. (modern turkey). He used to give presents to the kids.

    In line with the person it was derived from, santa claus is not an elf himself - he is a magic person (human). Elf 'helpers' were added in recent centuries through influence of celtic/anglosakson folklore.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by joocemann ( 1273720 )

      You say that like the tea partiers that havent noticed the new gop2.0 tea party. Tp 2007 != tp 2008.5+.

      Santa in 2011 is a meme to drive materialism and consumerism. Some still apprecate family and friends by proxy, but the santa of old is nothing like the tool for chinese manufactured goods he has become.

      • That was as true in 2001 as it is now. Except then we all thought we were entitled to fast cars, big houses and snorting coke off of dead hookers. Were not. Thats why the world economy crashed and is still looking for a ladder back up.

        • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

          It was just as true in 1955, except the toys were made in the US.

          Thats why the world economy crashed and is still looking for a ladder back up.

          The world economy crashed because of greed and incompetence of the rich and powerful.

    • by datavirtue ( 1104259 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @02:25PM (#38489046)

      Santa Claus is an archetype established by ancient Nordic shaman who used to gather mushrooms (amanita) in a sack and descend into his "hut" (forget the name of the structure) through the roof to process the mushrooms before handing them out at the yearly celebration that took place around this time. Christmas is an amalgamation of MANY year end (beginning) celebrations that were common over the entire world. This saint you refer to did not descend through the roof of homes in any way and deserves much less credit than the Nordic shaman who were stamped out by the Catholic church (although the tradition is still somewhat alive).

      Any association of Jesus and Christianity with this yearly celebration is a VERY late hijacking of this universal festivity. Like other traditions, the Christianity cult had to subvert these cultures to facilitate conversion. Being highly valued cultural traditions they also had to preserve the festivities to ease the transition. Why are there so many "different" holidays that all occur around this time of year?

      • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @03:42PM (#38489476)


        Are you saying Santa used to hand out shrooms? No wonder people looked forward to the celebration, saw elves, flying reindeer, live snowmen, etc.

        All we give him is cookies and milk in return.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        the Christianity cult

        Posted on the second holiest day for Christians, on Christmas of all days. Damn, you get troll of the year, asshole.

        As to Santa Clause, he's responsible for more atheists than Richard Dawkins is (Richard? Is that you?). The kiddies find they've been lied to about Santa Cause and the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy and figure the grownups are lying about Jesus.

        I pity you for your ignorance and hate. Now fuck off, troll.

        • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
          Hey, at least the religibot is not attempting to murder the poster and his associates. Christianity is better than Muslim, at least for that response. Oh, and I just thought of a picture of Mohammed. And Jesus. Sucking each other off. Big fucking deal.
          • Im sure youre a riot at family gatherings. Way to celebrate "goodwill towards all men".

            • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
              Hey, I didn't create the fantasy day, and I do not intend to operate under its rules. I just returned from an excellent family gathering, at which we exchanged good words, good gifts, and good times. We do not need to deceive ourselves, in order to benefit each other.
              • Our society created it, its no more a fantasy day than Thanksgiving. You should tell all your family and friends how Thanksgiving is really a celebration of the subjugation of a native people; im sure that would make you the life of the party.

                • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
                  Um, Christmas is far more a fantasy day than Thanksgiving. You are correct that Thanksgiving was about the subjugation of a native people; the fantasy day is about some celestial being whose arrival is timed to the day which gets longer, after three days being the shortest days of the year. It is fictional, and is wish-fulfillment that the day doesn't keep getting shorter, ending us. Colonization was not fictional. And, with your last clause, you're still projecting.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          the Christianity cult

          Posted on the second holiest day for Christians, on Christmas of all days. Damn, you get troll of the year, asshole.

          By any reasonable definition, early Christianity was a cult; they just managed to get some followers in key positions (like Emperors) and it snowballed from there. Then what Christianity morphed into got some money behind it and wanted to expand its influence, and borrowing from existing popular celebrations made it easier to snarf converts. I don't have a lot of respect for a lot of institutional christianity from about the 3rd-20th centuries.

          That said, if Jesus of Nazareth was alive today, he'd be involve

        • It's not trolling, it's a fact. All religions are inherently cults, just disguised. The sooner the world realises this the sooner we can make some real progress.
      • I can see how the early Christians appropriated the timing/rituals for marketing purposes, but perhaps it was also a way to dodge persecutors that would be occupied with their own celebrations? (think of Romans busy with drunken orgies, perhaps)

      • Christmas was celebrated in Germany with a Christmas tree in the 1500s, and earlier in other parts. The celebration of Christmas itself goes much further back, with references in the 11th century, and even as far back as the 4th century. You are right that Christmas is a semi-new arrival on the scene-- in the last 1500 years or so-- but you should qualify what you mean when you say "a very late hijacking" when "very late" refers to the "within the last 2 millenia or so".

      • Linus understands what Christmas is all about. See here: []
    • St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra in the mid 300s. []

      His best known legend is that there was a young girl in his parish who wanted to marry but had no dowry. One evening while walking by he anonymously tossed a bag of gold through her window. This alleged event is where he derives the "gift-giving" persona from.

      The elf thing only dates back to "Twas the Night before Christmas", which refers to him as "a right jolly old elf". Whether this was meant literally or famili

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by DragonHawk ( 21256 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @11:15AM (#38488144) Homepage Journal

    Scientific Inquiry into Santa Claus

    As a result of an overwhelming lack of requests, and with research help
    from that renown scientific journal SPY magazine (January, 1990) - I am
    pleased to present the annual scientific inquiry into Santa Claus.

    1) No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of
    living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects
    and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only
    Santa has ever seen.

    2) There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since
    Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist
    children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378 million
    according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of
    3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's
    at least one good child in each.

    3) Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different
    time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west
    (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is
    to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has
    1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney,
    fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat
    whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the
    sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8
    million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we
    know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept),
    we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2
    million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least
    once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.

    This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000
    times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made
    vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per
    second - a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

    4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming
    that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds),
    the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably
    described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more
    than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) could
    pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even
    nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even
    counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison
    - - - this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.

    5) 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air
    resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as
    spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer
    will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short,
    they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer
    behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire
    reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa,
    meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater
    than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be
    pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

    In conclusion - If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's
    dead now.

    • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @11:21AM (#38488176) Homepage Journal

      ... 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - - - this is four times the weight of Queen Elizabeth.

      My gawd, the poor woman !! I now understand why she so sparingly appears in public. Being so overweight must be horrible.

      • by SpzToid ( 869795 )

        I for one welcome our, ...oh wait, I don't have to do that nonsense!

      • ... 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - - - this is four times the weight of Queen Elizabeth.

        My gawd, the poor woman !! I now understand why she so sparingly appears in public. Being so overweight must be horrible.

        The queen, she came to call on us
        She wanted to see all of us
        I'm glad she didn't fall on us
        She's 57,558,600 stone...
        Apologies to the late George Hodnett [].

    • by tunabomber ( 259585 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @11:23AM (#38488184) Homepage

      ...would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force

      No wonder my stocking had a big diamond in it this morning. It USED to be a hunk of coal.

    • "Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second"

      This explains why we've never been able to nail him with anti-aircraft fire...

    • 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere.

      It's a good thing he got that new pet conditioner. "Protects from heat, drying, and daily damage"!

    • Re:Obligatory (Score:4, Informative)

      by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @11:38AM (#38488242)

      It can all be explained because The Dioctor helped him out!

      This isn't original... Picked it up somewhere...

      The Doctor had some left over TARDIS parts and built St. Nick a sleigh from them! Only it's time locked to Christmas Eve... So Santa behaves. That allows Santa to deliver presents all year round. Because the Sleigh is "bigger on the inside" there is plenty of room for gifts. (sadly, Santa didn't get a library or pool) that also accounts for the flying reindeer... But the might be a special breed from the future?

    • Very good. For anyone else that wanted to find the source of this, this website: [] claims:

      "This was sent via e-mail a couple years ago, circa 1996. Therefore the author's information is unknown."

      If someone has more information on the source I'd like to hear it.

    • by Dausha ( 546002 )

      There's a problem with the science in your comment above. It presumes all the boys and girls are Nice. We can scientifically prove that most of them are in fact Naughty. How many parents fake Santa's appearance to mask their children's Naughtiness?

      As a result, Santa is mostly underfed, underworked. He's not as chubby as before since he has few morsels to eat every Christmas. He's home by 9PM PST. His elves were able to participate in this year's Occupy protests without any meaningful dent in productivity.

      • We can scientifically prove that most of them are in fact Naughty. How many parents fake Santa's appearance to mask their children's Naughtiness?

        And this is why Santa doesn't visit Toy Town. For one thing, the viewpoint toy is in fact Noddy [], and for another, Big-Ears does a good job of faking (a previous) Santa's appearance.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )
      Or I could apply Occam's razor and say the mall Santas deliver the presents [].
  • Meh ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by lennier1 ( 264730 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @11:15AM (#38488146)

    Kinda late. The Finns already made a documentary on that topic: []

  • by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @11:15AM (#38488148)
    For a moment I was worried this would be the old chestnut about Santa bursting into flames a second after he takes off, because of air resistance and the speeds necessary to deliver toys to every child on the planet. This, at least, I can fill a stocking to.
  • He's got... (Score:5, Funny)

    by tunabomber ( 259585 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @11:20AM (#38488172) Homepage

    ... an O(1) solution to the Traveling Salesman Problem, but he ain't sharing it. Which is a bummer, since that's all I wanted for Christmas.

  • by FairAndHateful ( 2522378 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @11:31AM (#38488218)

    Santa's mastery of nanotechnology allows Santa to grow presents on the spot

    Thereby depriving all the elves of jobs! They did the right things, they followed the rules, they went to elf school, and got advanced degrees in craftsmanship, but they're getting screwed by Santa, who's just rewarding the children he thinks are "nice". You remember when you were a kid? Did the children who were actually nice get the best presents? No! It was always the kids of some corporate fat cat! We see who Santa's rewarding. Occupy the North Pole!

    • The elf jobs are secure, who do you think maintains the complicated system that delivers raw material to the nano-replicator on the sleigh in flight?

      Those gifts belong to Santa until he gives them. He can give them to whomever he chooses. You are just sour grapes because you only got a lump of non-environmentally friendly coal.

    • Thereby depriving all the elves of jobs!

      We've all been deprived of Jobs. Let us hold hands on this day when we celebrate crass commercialism coupled closely to conspicious consumption and remember Him...

    • Don't worry, TFS is smokin' crack. Nanoassembly doesn't save weight - what does he thing, nanotech converts air into presents?

      It might save space in the bag, if it's just filled with gray goo, but I don't think Santa has Trek replicators yet.

  • It would appear that the only magic here is the disappearing funding for his department because they spend their government- and taxpayer-funded time doing stupid stuff like this.

    Really? Because we're not in armed conflicts all over the globe and our space travel initiatives aren't completely fucked? Come on guys, serious problems - serious response. Let's dig ourselves out of this intellectual hole we've fallen in and get back to being pioneers of... well, anything but 100% outsourced capitalism.

  • The real mystery... (Score:4, Informative)

    by billybob_jcv ( 967047 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @12:27PM (#38488430)

    ... is why the WTO hasn't gone after Santa for violating import/export & tariff laws, and why the AFL-CIO & the Teamsters haven't shut him down or made him disappear.

    BTW, the house I grew-up in didn't have a fireplace, therefore we also didn't have a chimney. When I was a kid, I believed Santa came down our sewer system vent pipes.

  • As a parent (Score:5, Funny)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @01:05PM (#38488590) Journal

    TFA was written by a non-parent.

    The answer is much simpler. Since he only give presents to children who have been good all year long, Santa only makes a few brief stops in the coma wards of hospitals. The rest is just marketing.

    • including an underground antenna that listens to children's thoughts

      When I read this the first thing I thought of was that it is a good thing kids stop believing in Santa Claus not too long before they figure out how to beat off. Saves a lot on psychiatric treatment later.

  • Santa Claus operates entirely within the realm of natural means known for thousands of years.

    CM: Yeah! And then, when they flied across da sky, they used ta come down to places like, oh, Chicago, L.A., Nueva York and Pacoima and all those places, y'know, and then land on top of people's roofs and then 'ol Santa Claus would make himself real small, y'know, like, a real small guy, and he'd come down da chimney and then he would give you all da stuff that he made, man. And...dig this, man...he did it all in
  • Sounds like they're gearing up for a gritty reboot.

  • What is next, justifying religion?

    Santa is nothing but a training in bullshitting kids. When they are told there is no santa, they fill up that gap with zombie jesus.

    Don't like to your kids. Tell them you love them very much and give them a gift, that's all they need. Fairy tales rot their little minds.

    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

      Fairy tales rot their little minds.

      Yes; yes and no. Teaching the defenseless little expenses that the two people who are tasked with keeping them alive and caring the most about them will lie to them about the basic nature of reality teaches them a good lesson: question authority. Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, God is the progression; most people only make it past the first three. And the kicker is, there might be a Protector, but it's not the way that God is described in the holy books. It's more a construct of science. And we

  • Already covered by "Nature".

  • Somebody should really quit drinking.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller