Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Theories of Santa

This year is the first year since I've had an email address that I haven't gotten that Santa Claus vs. physics email meme. You know the one: Santa would have to travel so quickly he'd burn up, no reindeer team could possibly lift a sleigh carrying one doll for every Christian/secular/Christmas-celebrating child in the world, etc. etc. etc.

I'm choosing to see not getting this email as a Good Thing, except for one small problem: I had to get creative with Google with find a decent article that talked about the physics. Or a copy of That Email (scroll down to the second item).

I'll wait for you to read those.

Done? Good. I shall now pick up the science fiction-y aspects of each, and extrapolate.

From the article:
  • Santa uses an ion shield - As we currently do not have widely available ion shield technology, this leaves us with four options. 1) Santa has stolen and elaborated on state-of-the-art technology. 2) Santa is secretly a physicist. 3) Santa comes from a civilization that has perfected the ion shield, i.e. Santa is an alien. 3a) i.e. Santa is a time traveling philanthropist.
  • Santa uses the frictionless environment of space to improve on his travel time - Santa's sleigh is equipped with artificial gravity strong enough to maintain an atmosphere, or Santa and his reindeer all wear spacesuits and carry oxygen tanks. If artificial gravity, see the ion shield explanations.
  • Santa makes use of more than four dimensions - Again, Santa is an alien or a time traveller, as we currently have no way of accessing more than four dimensions (consistently, at least. Who knows what the LHC really does?). Alternatively, Santa can do magic, a fact supported by Christmas folklore and literature, and by the fact that he routinely employs elves. The use of 5+ dimensions would also explain why Santa's workshop is invisible.
  • Santa is Einstein - see: time traveling philanthropist
  • Santa causes global warming - An argument against the philanthropist idea. Perhaps Santa's trying to make the North Pole warm enough to live comfortably and save on the heating costs?
  • Santa uses wool hats as thought-monitoring devices - This is evidence of a massively advanced technology, as there is nothing about wool that makes it useful for monitoring thoughts. Additionally, there would need to be a way to transmit the information over massive distances (such as radio waves) and again, there's no evidence of a transmitter in any wool hat I've ever seen. See: time traveller; alien.
  • Santa's reindeer use vacuum energy to fly - Further advanced technology. Possibly evidence of a) mutant reindeer or b) alien lifeforms that bear a strong resemblance to Earth reindeer.
From the email archive:
  • Santa's reindeer are a new species - This is entirely possible, given that we've discovered a number of species in Papua New Guinea and the Himalayas, but is made less plausible by the extent of exploration that's taken place in the world's arctic regions, the reindeer's natural habitat. Perhaps Santa uses the North Pole as a wildlife preserve. Possibly these reindeer have evolved to resemble robots (strong skin, flight, ability to withstand massive heat, weights, and speeds). Possibly they are, in fact, robots (or cyborgs).
  • Santa's faster-than-light travel slows down time - This presupposes that Santa can travel faster than light. Since he can't be teleporting (there's documented evidence of him and his sleigh flying, landing on roofs, etc.), he must be using advanced technology again.
  • There are multiple Santa Clauses - Cloning! Or the theory from the archive, that there's actually a family of Clauses. This would mean that there are multiple teams of reindeer, which would give support to the wildlife preserve idea.
  • Santa realizes all possible quantum states, or exists as one "particle" spread over a great distance - a) alien b) transhuman c) magical d) Schroedinger's Santa. There's no other way he'd be able to reestablish himself in one place, at one time, without one of the above. As various people in the archive point out, this also accounts for his invisibility while visiting houses.
  • Santa uses guided-missile type technology to drop presents down chimneys without landing - I personally don't believe this, because there's too much documented evidence of him going down chimneys. However, if you want to go with this idea, what parameters would Santa need to key the homing tech to, to land the gifts under the tree without hitting anything? Does it go for anything green, big, and triangular? Do we even have the ability to guide missiles without using a heat signature as the target? I call advanced technology again.
  • Rudolph's nose is not actually red, but is red-shifted during flight - Plausible, given the speeds he'd be moving at.
  • Santa is dosing his reindeer - Perhaps it's the hour I'm writing this, but I'd say this is possible. Not particularly nice of Santa in the long run, though. The reindeer would have massive burn-out or withdrawal symptoms come Boxing Day. Continuing the routine year after year would also likely shorten their lifespans.
  • Santa's reindeer fly in the same way that Arthur Dent flies, i.e., they just forget to hit the ground - This is so silly it has to be true.
  • Santa's workshop is situated at a wormhole nexus - If so, what else is coming through? And how can we make use of this remarkable resource?
I would also like to add that Santa has a personal cloaking device, a larger one for his sleigh and reindeer, and an even larger one for his workshop. He must. We never see him, do we?

I know I've put forward a few theories about Santa's origins—alien, transhuman, time traveller, elf—and the technology available to him. You can choose any of them, or none of them, or a combination (time traveling elf from another planet). I won't be hurt if you do.

Me, though? I'm going with "alien". Santa is totally an alien.

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