19 Aug 2022

Leading edge smart technologies save Santa from a sticky end

There is an ongoing annual scientific inquiry into the Santa Claus phenomenon. Andy Pye reviews some of the smart technologies which bring Santa’s annual trip into the realms of the feasible, without resulting in the spontaneous combustion of his flying reindeer.

Reindeer are common in northern Europe. Of course, 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 the idea.

The Telegraph’s former science editor Dr Roger Highfield has written an entire book of that name (Can Reindeer Fly? The Science of Christmas). Somewhere in the North Pole, or perhaps buried in a vast complex under Gemiler, there must be an army of scientists experimenting with the latest in high-temperature materials, genetic computing technologies and warped spacetime geometries, all united by a single purpose: making millions of children happy each and every Christmas.

And there is a rumour “flying about” that conventional reindeer may instead be given the power of flight simply by eating magic acorns.

The Challenge

There are in excess of two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. Christmas is primarily a Christian festival, so that reduces the workload to about 15% of the total – around 378 million at the last count. At an average census rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s just 91.8 million homes, assuming there is at least one good child in each.

Judicious use of time zones means that Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with. This works out at just 822.6 visits per second, excluding comfort breaks. This is to say that for each household with good children, Santa has over a millisecond to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney (if he can find one), 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 dwelling. Simples!

Although the non-uniform distribution of children has a tremendous effect on the routing, for the purpose of these calculations we will assume that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth. We are now talking about 1.25km per household, a total trip of just over 120 million kilometres. And of course, if Santa stops to give coal to bad children it could slow things quite down a bit more. This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at about 1000km/s, or 3,000 times the speed of sound. For comparison, a conventional reindeer can run at 24km/hr, at least for a bit.

The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized Lego set, the sleigh would be carrying 321,300 tonnes (not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight). On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 140kg. We would need over 200,000 reindeer. This increases the payload further to about four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.

Now, 353,000 tonnes travelling at 1000km/s creates enormous air resistance – this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. In short, they would spontaneously combust, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be instantly vapourised.

So in reality, if Santa ever did deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s probably dead now.

Of course, miracles do happen and there are only too many scientists who are brave enough to present rebuttals and expound alternative theories. Enough, some might say, to justify a PhD thesis on the subject…

Relativity clouds

It is often pointed out that Santa’s society of elves has had at least 500 uninterrupted years to evolve, socially and intellectually. Their understanding of physics, engineering and biology may well exceed our own. For example, it is postulated that the first breakthrough came when they learned how to control time, space and light, thereby creating “relativity clouds.”

Inside a relativity cloud, Santa has months to deliver presents. He sees the world frozen and only hears silence. The relativity cloud is used not only for transportation, but also to “morph” Santa into children’s homes. Upon returning to the North Pole, and leaving the domain of the relativity cloud, only a few minutes will have gone by.

Taking quantum physics a stage further, viewing Santa as a waveform removes the apparent paradox of his “presence” being measured in several locations within a short interval of time. As the waveform collapses down in a specific location (attracted, we suggest, by the Goodness Quantum number of the recumbent child) it becomes perfectly valid to state that a “visitation” has occurred. Everybody knows that.

It turns out that the distribution of household chimneys is exactly that required to act as a diffraction grating for objects of Santa’s predicted wavelengths, focusing the zeroth order onto the bedroom floor below (see “Chimchimmeny, chimchimmeny, chimchin cheroo”, Bert, Mar. Popp. 1969).

The quantum mechanical model also predicts that energies involved in a waveform collapse will result in the emission of a jet of sub-atomic particles. Studies of bedroom carpets in the vicinity of alleged sightings, using an X-mass spectrometer, have often revealed evidence of mince pion activity; though these have usually been hoovered up.

 Christmas Stocking effect

Yet another prediction which agrees with commonly reported observations concerns the Christmas Stocking effect. Within the general theory, the stocking would be expected to act as an infinite potential well, momentarily capturing the Santa waveform. The resonance within the stocking is predicted to transfer energy from any batteries within the well (causing them to run out by Boxing Day) before collapsing back down to a new ground state characterised by a tangerine in the toe.

Thought antennas

Here, an antenna is spread out under the snow. The antenna aperture is a round mesh, a few square kilometres in size, with mesh spacing on the order of a millimetre to accommodate microwave frequency reception. The antenna receives the electromagnetic waves from children’s’ thoughts.

The associated input signals to the computer are divided into different sources associated with children’s brain waves. This is done by a dedicated filtering software platform. The filtering is accomplished using tunable FFTs (Fast Fourier transforms), adaptive pattern recognition algorithms, and with artificial intelligent neural networks with automated hidden layer constructions.

The listening antenna combines technologies currently used in electrocardiograms (EKGs), antennas looking into deep space, and cellular telephones.

In flight, what do you think reindeer have antlers for – fighting over females? Rather, think of them as furry solar array panels which also have a function of communicating with the command and control centre.

And the latest reindeer generations are specially bred to balance on rooftops, bio-engineered to see well at night and equipped with jet packs for propulsion and control.

Command and control centre

The sleigh-port is an underground facility that serves as a command and control centre. It houses a central computer, which has a fully integrated architecture based on photonics and fibre optics. The sleigh is similarly equipped.

Naturally, Santa’s sleigh is a fully autonomous vehicle. At launch, the sleigh downloads needed information, activates the relativity cloud, and initiates the launch sequence.

The dashboard is holographic. It displays cruise control and manual override, the nano-toymaker, the children’s toy lists, and the optimised navigational maps. The sleigh also has two drink holders (for eggnog).

3D printed presents

To avoid the problem of hauling large quantities of toys, the presents are now grown in situ under the tree using a nano-toymaker, wrapping and all. This is a major contributor to the net-zero philosophy now adopted in Lapland.

The machine has an information database that contains toy-making instructions. The Elves Union, the Grotto National Order of Menial Elves (GNOME) is in negotiations with Santa Inc, over redeployment and upskilling arrangements.

The process itself uses a catalyst to initiates a rapid crystallisation growth process, analogous to the inorganic crystal growth of minerals and the DNA-driven organic growth of biological organs, tissues and other body parts.

Even so, Santa still has to Fedex a number of packages ahead of time, since he would not be able to fly into military bases, or into tower-controlled areas near airports. He’d get shot at over certain countries, so he’d probably use DHL there.

I-Spy Santa

Only last year, artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision company Kepler Vision has announced an algorithm to detect when Santa has visited your house.

Originally built to monitor the movements of older people at night, the company’s Night Nurse human activity recognition software has now been programmed to identify when Santa Claus emerges from the fireplace, helping users to pinpoint the exact moment of St. Nick’s visit.

The Night Nurse software follows the movements of patients in care homes, immediately alerting staff to falls or when a patient is struggling to get out of bed. By retraining its AI algorithm using images of fireplaces, Kepler Vision can now identify when someone is delivering gifts with the same level of medical device accuracy.

The software is able to recognise people in various attire (for example, bearded men in red-and-white outfits) and positions (like dispersing presents under a tree and stuffing stockings).

Kepler also added the ability to recognise fireplaces to its software by adding a set of images that included manually outlined fireplaces to its series of training images, allowing its AI to identify fireplaces in new images. 

Santa dead, indeed! Some people will twist any situation to “prove” their cynical theories. Santa can deliver presents in the wink of an eye. Santa’s trip IS a remarkable feat of aeronautics, but please don’t say it’s impossible.

Company info: Santa Claus Inc