How Santa did it
December 25, 2004
Santa Claus rocketed through the County early this
morning at 480 times the speed of sound, unloading presents for 42,929
children at some 20,000 homes, according to extensive Tribune research
A similar event was reported a year ago.
It was unclear how much milk
and cookies the obese elf consumed on his journey, but it is possible
that he gained as much weight as he lost when jettisoning presents.
Santa human and equipped with man-made technology, air friction generated
by his high-speed foray would have left him as a fiery ball of nothing, and
the gifts he carried for this county's children alone would have weighed
more than a locomotive.
Acceleration forces could have squashed him to
a wad smaller than a pinhead, according to some scientists, and he would
have emitted numerous sonic booms during the 7.5 seconds he was in the
None of this happened, however, leaving The Tribune to determine
what Santa must have done to accomplish his prodigious feat.
"Santa has to go like hell, and he's not going to have a lot of time to
lollygag around," said Cal Poly physics professor Richard Frankel. "The
thing that will really put Santa into the hospital is if they ever establish
a place on the moon. How is he going to get to the moon?"
Scientists also theorized that Santa uses a number of high-tech tools, such
as a heat-dissipating sleigh, and he frequently employs his rigorous knowledge
of theoretical physics.
"He uses worm holes," Frankel said, "but don't get me
started on that."
The Tribune based its calculations of Santa's
journey on the 2000 census, the most complete set of demographic data
At that time, there were about 26,000 homes with children younger than 18 in
the county, but that number has grown in the last four years, rendering Santa's
task more difficult.
"There's a crisis in this world," Frankel said. "Global warming?
That's nothing compared to the growth going on in the exburbs. How is
Santa going to get to the houses in the exburbs?"
The exburbs refer to rural areas to which urban and suburban people are moving,
often in large numbers.
Although there were 26,000 eligible homes, determining the percentage that
actually celebrated Christmas was critical.
"I'd think because Santa is virtually omniscient, he'd avoid visiting groups
that don't wish to be visited," noted Cal Poly philosophy professor Joe
Lynch. "Ostensibly Santa should only visit Christians, but I don't
think he'll go by group membership."
That being the case, Lynch said it was reasonable to assume that Santa visited
about 20,000 homes, preferring not to upset Jehovah's Witnesses -- who do not
celebrate Christmas -- Orthodox Jews and members of other ethnic groups.
"For the exact numbers, you'll have to go to the North Pole," he said. "I'm
sure they've got it figured out by now."
Using that number and the average spacing between local homes -- taking into
account density variations between cities and the countryside -- The Tribune
derived the distance Santa traveled in the county: approximately 3,000 miles.
Given that he had to cover millions of miles around the world within 24 hours,
Santa spent less than 7.5 seconds in the County, traveling at more than 5 million
mph. That's 130 times slower than the speed of light, which means the elf didn't
need to stretch the boundaries of space and time.
Scientists theorize that Santa employed advanced technology
to accomplish his Herculean effort overnight. According to a 1997 report
by Larry Silverberg, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor
at North Carolina University, the elf used:
• A giant antenna buried in the snow around the North Pole that can detect
the electromagnetic waves emanating from children's brains. With this
device, he determined who had been naughty or nice;
• Jet packs on his reindeer for added propulsion;
• A relativity cloud whereby Santa, once inside, experiences space and time
differently. This phenomenon of physics allows him to enter homes despite
his rotund build;
• A nanotechnology device that scales tiny structures into full-sized toys;
• Bioengineering to create reindeer with enhanced night vision.
It is also possible that Rudolf has a genetically engineered nose, but
that remains unconfirmed.
Nonetheless, still more factors were necessary to make the wheels of
Christmas tick, said Frankel, the first of which was advanced textile
"Santa is distended, and he better have clothing made of high-elasticity
material," he said, referring to the amount of milk and cookies the elf
consumed. "We wouldn't want Santa bursting out through his britches.
You just imagine poor Santa. So be kind to Santa."
He also noted that the sleigh dissipates heat hyperefficiently to reduce
the intense energy generated when objects pass through air at high speed
-- such as when space ships leave the atmosphere.
"He also flies pretty high so the air is thinner, and he flies at night
and in the winter when it's colder," Frankel said, referring to radiational
cooling. "Why don't you think they have Christmas in June?"
The infrared signal from Rudolf's
nose helped military analysts track Santa throughout North America, said
Master Sgt. John Tomassi, a North American Aerospace Defense Command
NORAD is a military compound based in a mountain in Colorado Springs
that follows potential threats on radar and via satellite. Technicians
there have closely scrutinized the sleigh's Christmas Eve jaunts for
"When Santa enters Newfoundland in Canada, we escort him in with F-18s," Tomassi
said. "What are you laughing at? Could you imagine if someone tried
to imitate Santa and then had some sort of device on them to wreak havoc
throughout North America? We wouldn't want that."
Tomassi said that in years past, Santa headed northwest through the country
before eventually hopping across to Hawaii. He typically arrives between
11 p.m. and midnight.
It was not immediately clear what time Santa arrived this year. More
data processing is required.
Despite the military's concerns that terrorists could pose as St. Nick,
Tomassi admitted that the Air Force has never tried to arrest the elf
for flying under the influence.
"Santa's on his own if he's able to complete his mission with a little extra
eggnog," Tomassi said. "We don't enforce FUIs -- we'd have
no way of pulling him over."