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The Science of Christmas

By PhysicsGenius in Science
Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 05:29:15 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

An analysis of Christmas has been wending its way across the Internet for a few years now. This analysis purports to debunk Christmas by showing that Santa could not possibly visit each and every house to distribute presents on Christmas Eve. But the analysis is deeply flawed because it is written from a pure physics perspective

The standard analysis is naive in that it assumes Santa flies to each house to deliver presents when in fact the legends don't specifically claim that. In fact, many clues have been overlooked in the enthusiasm of debunking. Consider the fact that the definitive source reports Santa to be an elf who rides in a "miniature sleigh" with "eight tiny reindeer". Also note the importance placed on having a specific kind of tree placed in the recipient's household. Add to that the odd biology of at least one of the reindeer and it is made clear that Santa really works his magic via advanced biotechnology.

It is hard to be sure without more information if Elves are a naturally-occurring species in the North Pole ecosystem or if they were bioengineered by some unknown genius in the Middle Ages. The second is more probable as otherwise the Santa legend would be reported in the more ancient texts, such as the Bible. Also, Santa and his helpers are reported as being more cheerful and altruistic than plain evolutionary forces would be likely to produce.

Then consider Rudolph's nose. Glowing is not difficult to achieve; there are many deep sea animals that do so. Even on land the common lightning bug is able to generate quite a bit of light. Likewise, red body parts are not unknown. Generally these body parts are part of a mating ritual and are in full bloom, so to speak, when the animal is in heat. I think it is a good bet that "Rudolph" is actually a female reindeer in heat and all the other reindeer follow her for obvious reasons.

Minature versions of many kinds of plants and animals exist and we've already discussed the fact that some lifeforms that put bioluminescence to work. Therefore the above effects are well within the scope of modern biological theory. But they are also quite a bit beyond what current bioengineering is actually capable of doing. The next step, the logistical problem of delivering presents around the world in a single evening, also requires engineering that hasn't been worked out yet even though it only relies on relatively non-controversial science.

Let us start with that most potent of Christmas symbols, the tree. You must have a tree and it must be in your house in order for presents to be delivered. Furthermore, the tree must be an evergreen which not coincidentally is the only tree that is not dormant on the magical day. Once again, we see that biology is important. It is very probable that the same biological genius that engineered St Nick and his elves also modified the genetic structure of evergreens to support Santa's most amazing trick, that of hand-delivering presents to all the children of the world. But before the nature of that support is revealed we need to see what it is that Santa actually does.

It has already been shown that a physical sleigh (even a miniature) could not traverse the distances between homes both fast enough while leaving the occupants alive. But no legends come right out and say that's what happens. Instead, Santa's travel is glossed over and he is merely purported to "come down the chimney" and leave presents behind under the tree. But it is certain that a literal chimney cannot be necessary, since many modern houses that receive gifts have no chimney. Perhaps the chimney image is a pre-scientific confusion with another phenomenon entirely? But what?

Wormholes. The General Relativity equations predict the possibility of "holes" in spacetime connecting to holes at very distant (in conventional terms) locations, providing a shortcut across a nominally vast reach. It seems obvious how a wormhole would be useful to Santa. He has the requisite fully-staffed engineering facility at the North Pole to run such an operation. All that is required is for the elves to connect the wormhole to each house in turn and allow Santa to pop through and deposit the loot under the tree. (Or maybe the entire process is automated for speed and Santa himself makes only a few personal appearances for PR reasons).

But once again we've lapsed into a purely mechanistic, physical solution and have ignored an important problem, not to mention the available data. The problem is that the equations say that it would take an incredible amount of energy to hold a wormhole open. Part of this energy requirement can be met by the power generated by the living tree that is present at the site of the residential end of the wormhole. But there's no way a single tree, even genetically modified, could provide all the energy needed. Let's go back to the facts.

"Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." Is it possible that an evergreen has the ability to convert local kinetic energy into supporting its end of Santa's wormhole? It would certainly fit with the known facts. Also, research has indicated the plants can respond to emotions in nearby people. It is a bit of a leap, but could Christmas trees detect, absorb and concentrate the hopes and dreams of sleeping children to power the magic of Christmas?

The legends do say you have to believe...


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Do you believe?
o Yes, Virginia 41%
o No, I want coal 58%

Votes: 67
Results | Other Polls

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The Science of Christmas | 73 comments (62 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
Santa is dead. (4.50 / 4) (#1)
by wiredog on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:11:48 AM EST

True story. A friend of mine works with the local police, fire department, and coroner's office. Searching for and recovering bodies. On Monday he had to go to a local department store for a pickup. Upon arrival, he discovered that the victim was, in fact, Santa Claus. Being somewhat larger than average, Santa didn't fit in the standard body bag. So they weren't able to zip it closed. As they were carrying the bag and its contents out of the store a little kid pointed at them and asked his mother "Is Santa sick?"

"No Son, he's dead. And you killed him!" my friend did not say. But he did think it.

People in that line of work have a very dark and twisted sense of humor.

The greatest contribution of the internet to society is that it makes it possible for anyone of any age to become a grumpy old fart.

"Santa Claus is dead" (more twisted, les (4.66 / 3) (#9)
by Pikachu with an Axe in his Head on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:38:35 AM EST

A friend I frequently sleep with is a nursing assistant. Lately she was taking care of a particular kid who has been in the hospital for quite some time and needs a lot of surgery. The kid's parents are divorced, and the mother is crazy. This is how you can tell she's crazy:

One day this fall, the mother decided to tell the child over the phone that Christmas was cancelled because Santa Claus had died. The kid, strangely enough, was upset by this. A nurse asked the mother what she had said, and she told them that she "couldn't afford Christmas" and so of course she had decided to lie to her child in about the tenth most horrifying way possible. (The real issue was most likely that the kid's father could afford more in the way of gifts, and she was trying to preemptively spoil things for him.)

People are weird. Christmas gives them the chance to be even weirder.

[ Parent ]
I most certainly am not! (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by Santa Claus on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 06:47:42 PM EST

I am very much alive! The "Santa" your friend saw was likely an imposter.

Ho Ho Ho!
[ Parent ]
Hey cool. (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by Zathrus on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 06:44:41 AM EST

Can I have that Lamborghini that I've been asking for for a couple years now. I don't think my mail has been getting through.

"like a Mazda commercial with that creepy "zoom zoom" kid that goes on too long." - Filthy Critic
[ Parent ]
Santa Claus is in jail! (2.88 / 9) (#2)
by rdskutter on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:18:35 AM EST

Down in the workshop all the elves were makin' toys
For the good Gentile girls and the good Gentile boys
When the boss busted in, nearly scared 'em half to death
Had a rifle in his hands and cheap whiskey on his breath
From his beard to his boots he was covered with ammo
Like a big fat drunk disgruntled Yuletide Rambo
And he smiled as he said with a twinkle in his eye,
"Merry Christmas to all - now you're all gonna die!"

The night Santa went crazy
The night St. Nick went insane
Realized he'd been gettin' a raw deal
Something finally must have snapped in his brain

Well, the workshop is gone now, he decided to bomb it
Everywhere you'll find pieces of Cupid and Comet
And he tied up his helpers and he held the elves hostage
And he ground up poor Rudolph into reindeer sausage
He got Dancer and Prancer with an old German Luger
And he slashed up Dasher just like Freddy Krueger
And he picked up a flamethrower and he barbequed Blitzen
And he took a big bite and said, "It tastes just like chicken!"

The night Santa went crazy
The night Kris Kringle went nuts
Now you can't hardly walk around the North Pole
Without steppin' in reindeer guts

There's the National Guard and the F.B.I.
There's a van from the Eyewitness News
And helicopters circlin' 'round in the sky
And the bullets are flyin', the body count's risin'
And everyone's dyin' to know, oh Santa, why?
My my my my my my
You used to be such a jolly guy

Yes, Virginia, now Santa's doin' time
In a federal prison for his infamous crime
Hey, little friend, now don't you cry no more tears
He'll be out with good behavior in 700 more years
But now Vixen's in therapy and Donner's still nervous
And the elves all got jobs working for the postal service
And they say Mrs. Clause, she's on the phone every night
With her lawyer negotiating the movie rights

They're talkin' bout - the night Santa went crazy
The night St. Nicholas flipped
Broke his back for some milk and cookies
Sounds to me like he was tired of gettin' gypped

Wo, the night Santa went crazy
The night St. Nick went insane
Realized he's gettin' a raw deal
Something finally must have snapped in his brain
Wo, something finally must have snapped in his brain
Tell ya, something finally must have snapped... in his brain

Weird Al Rules (4.75 / 4) (#4)
by baberg on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:24:17 AM EST

Anybody looking to hear that festive Christmas song should search your favorite peer-to-peer system for "Weird Al Yankovic - The Night Santa Went Crazy". Truly an American icon.

[ Parent ]
Or... (5.00 / 4) (#15)
by Kyle on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 11:15:17 AM EST

Y'know, you could buy "Bad Hair Day", the album that has that song.

[ Parent ]
You're new here, aren't you? (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by baberg on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 12:57:32 PM EST

Nobody online actually *buys* music. That would require feeding the RIAA, which is the Root of All Evil(tm). Instead we download it and give them the ammunition they need to take away fair use rights.

We also don't like the MPAA, except when they release movies like Spiderman, Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars. Then we like 'em. We also hate Blizzard because they crack down on bnet.d, but rave about Warcraft III.

Stick around for a little while more, you'll figure out how to fit in.

And for the record, I own Bad Hair Day. I also own Running with Scissors, Alapalooza, as well as several cassette tapes of his older stuff (Weird Al in 3-D, etc.) I support Al as much as possible.

[ Parent ]

Online 12 years and counting. (4.50 / 2) (#26)
by Kyle on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 01:34:20 PM EST

I'm surprised to discover I have every "Weird Al" Yankovic album on CD except for "Off the Deep End" (which I have on cassette), the soundtrack to "UHF" (which I have on DVD), and the various compilations (which don't have anything that's not on the other albums). Heck, I wasn't even trying. I think "Weird Al" is a great bargain because you get those great pop tunes all in one place but with better lyrics.

I've been to three "Weird Al" concerts too. Somewhere I have a T-shirt from the "Bad Hair Day" tour, but I don't wear it anymore because it's pretty worn out, and I don't want anyone getting any funny ideas about throwing it out.

It's good to see another fan.

Anyway, I agree with you about the MPAA and RIAA too. I curse their name while going to movies every chance I get (maybe six times a year). I buy some music, but only after I've downloaded it and listened to it first.

I curse Microsoft too, but I use Windows every day.

[ Parent ]

What a coincidence.... (5.00 / 5) (#6)
by squigly on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:26:57 AM EST


[ Parent ]
Oh please! (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by rjo on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 12:46:49 PM EST

You'd have to be pretty damn dumb to think skutter came up with that on his own. All it took was a simple Google search to find the author of that little ditty.

[ Parent ]
Well, yeah... (none / 0) (#49)
by squigly on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 08:12:36 PM EST

I just feel its a little off not giving Weird Al a credit.  I know most people know who he is, and I know that everyone else can find out easily enough, but it just seems polite to give appropriate credit.

[ Parent ]
I think you missed the point (none / 0) (#65)
by rdskutter on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 08:56:24 AM EST

Yes its an example of blatent plaguarism. Yes, there's an article about plaguarism in the queue. Geee! I wonder if the two are connected?

You can lay it on with a trowel and people like you still manage to miss the whole point.

Yanks are like ICBMs: Good to have on your side, but dangerous to have nearby. - OzJuggler
History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.[ Parent ]

This isn't funny at all. (none / 0) (#44)
by Santa Claus on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 06:53:41 PM EST

I'll just switch you to the naughty list.

Ho Ho Ho!
[ Parent ]
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (4.83 / 6) (#7)
by wiredog on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:29:28 AM EST

From James Lileks' Blog
1. What's the problem with the red nose, anyway? These are reindeer who can fly, which isn't a feature in the original attribute profile. So a guy has a red nose - fine, it's unusual, but please explain why this must result in ostracization. We need a little more backstory: maybe the last deer with a red nose when mad and gored everyone. "They called it Bloodmas Eve - aye, the older reindeer still talk about it. The red-nosed one stood in the stable door, eyes wide as wagon wheels, gore-flecked foam gushing from his mouth, the entrails of our friends wrapped around his antlers like string in a cat's cradle. His nose burned like a coal from Satan's furnace, it did; the snow made a horrible hiss as it touched the nose and sizzled into steam. He made a cry they say no reindeer has ever made before, or since - a sound of pain and fury that would chill the blood of the Abominable One himself."

"Then he started in on the elves."

"No, those red-nosed ones are always bad. Good thing Rudolph ran away, or we'd have killed him - why, Santa was out in the shed honing the axe when he heard he'd run off with that gay fellow from the paint department."

The greatest contribution of the internet to society is that it makes it possible for anyone of any age to become a grumpy old fart.
Question: (4.50 / 2) (#8)
by ti dave on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:36:36 AM EST

May I substitute a juniper for the tree?

Will any Evergreen suffice?

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

If you can substitute juniper, I can use... (5.00 / 2) (#10)
by Pikachu with an Axe in his Head on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:39:46 AM EST

...a glass of gin, right?

[ Parent ]
Answer: (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by Santa Claus on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 06:55:18 PM EST

A juniper is acceptable. If you'd like me to bring you a new tree, I can make a note of it.

Ho Ho Ho!
[ Parent ]
Yes, female (4.75 / 4) (#11)
by Quila on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 10:51:25 AM EST

I think it is a good bet that "Rudolph" is actually a female reindeer in heat and all the other reindeer follow her for obvious reasons.

The joke you may have heard is true.  It would be unusual for a male reindeer to have his antlers as late as December 24th, while the females retain them through winter.

So either they're all probably female, it's serious statistical clustering, or it's a bit more Christmas magic.

A critique of the former presumption (5.00 / 5) (#25)
by chemista on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 01:14:55 PM EST

I suspect it must be the latter choice. An analysis of the famous poem in which the Original Eight are mentioned should be illustrative. I shall demonstrate that they must be, in fact, gender-mixed based upon their names alone.

Let us begin with the latter set of names from the tale: Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. There is no obvious method to assign a sex to Comet, but the other three are more amenable to this method. Cupid is taken from the name of fair Venus' male child by Zeus Himself, which is surely indicative of Cupid's masculinity. Similarly, though the names "Donner" and "Blitzen" are not as obviously male in the tongue of the poem, one may reasonably assume that the author was familiar with German, the language from which both these words derive. In German, both words require the masculine "der" rather than the feminine "die," and presuming the poem's author familiar with German, one must also assume they are both male also.

But then, may we assume all of the Eight are male? Surely not! For in the first set of names -- Dancer, Dasher, Prancer and Vixen -- the lattermost name is quite obviously feminine, being in English the designation for a female fox.

Bringing these together, it is clear that not all of the Reindeer may be either male or female. One must investigate the poem with a finer eye to fix the genders of the remaining five, none of which is necessarily male or female by name alone. An examination of the poem will show that in every other case, the final word of each line pair rhyme precisely. It is clear, however, that "Vixen" and "Blitzen," however nearly so, do not mutually rhyme. Once combined with the evidence gained from the name analysis, it becomes clear that the poem's author intended these sets of four not to be a rhyming pair, but an appositional pairing.

The conclusion, which is confirmed by PhysicsGenius' own presumtion concerning placement due to a biological heat condition, is that the forward four, e.g. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, are all female and the rearmost four are all male. Due to this gender balance, it may not be unreasonable to assume that Rudolph may be a natural hermaphrodite, and the unusual ratio of male to female hormone may have contributed to Rudolph's unusual coloration. This would explain both the "masculine" name and the inferred female heat condition simultaneously, and, since reindeer are always assumed to be unclothed, may explain the otherwise confusing exclusion from the games that the catalog insert describes -- if it involved reindeer of each gender to be on opposing sides of the game, there would be no natural team to which Rudolph would be assigned.
Stop reminding people about the overvalued stock market! I'm depending on that overvalued stock market to retire some day! - porkchop_d_clown
[ Parent ]

Blitzen? (none / 0) (#39)
by Dephex Twin on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 05:37:34 PM EST

"Blitzen" is not a masculine noun in German, but a neuter one.


Poor fellow.

Alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems. -- Homer Simpson
[ Parent ]

This is getting too strange for me (n/t) :) (none / 0) (#59)
by Quila on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 03:49:51 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Don't you think... (none / 0) (#63)
by chemista on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 07:59:51 AM EST

... this entire article is a little strange too? ;) Happy Holid--- er, I mean Merry Christmas.
Stop reminding people about the overvalued stock market! I'm depending on that overvalued stock market to retire some day! - porkchop_d_clown
[ Parent ]
Yes, Merry Christmas (none / 0) (#73)
by Quila on Tue Jan 14, 2003 at 05:06:51 AM EST

Even though I'm an atheist who doesn't believe in the divinity of some dude long ago named Jesus, it's Christmas, damn it, not some general holiday season.

I hate politically correct jargon.

[ Parent ]

Red nose (none / 0) (#13)
by psychologist on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 11:11:31 AM EST

Strictly for the fans of classic British Cinema.

Rumpapa, rumpapa, that's how it goes,
Rumpapa, rumpapa, everyone knows.
What is the cause of his red shining nose...?
Could it be Rum-papa?

Santa's elves are really gnomes (5.00 / 8) (#14)
by IHCOYC on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 11:14:52 AM EST

Any discussion of Santa's elves has to begin with the question: are they really elves?

After all, the canonical elf habitat is rural, rustic, and above all arboreal. The North Pole is none of those things. Elves are typically slender humanoids, less robust than humans, fast-moving, graceful, and long lived. Elf males seldom sport facial hair, and may be incapable of growing it. While Elves may make fancy buildings and sculptures out of sylvan materials, few are adept with power tools. Santa's elves are quite unlike any of these elves.

Santa's elves fit the gnome profile much more closely. They are much shorter than humans or elves. They are robust, stocky, and bearded, as is Santa himself. They inhabit a harsh Nordic climate. They are mechanically inclined. Unlike dwarves, they are not at home underground; they work more in wood (and more recently, plastics) than metal.

Those who called Santa's helpers 'elves' were confused or mistaken. I submit that henceforth we should refer to them as Santa's gnomes.

Choke the last Santa with the guts of the last reindeer!

And not just any gnomes... (none / 0) (#23)
by rjo on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 12:54:29 PM EST

they're Underpants Gnomes!

[ Parent ]
Is it a bit drafty in here? <n/t> (none / 0) (#30)
by carbon on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 02:55:12 PM EST

Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
Nope! (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by Santa Claus on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 07:07:44 PM EST

My elves are really elves! They're miniature elves and prefer conifer forests to the deciduous forest preferred by other elves. They grow beards to help with the cold. They don't use tools in the traditional sense, but that's a trade secret.

The weather up here isn't so bad, really. All the furnaces in the workshop create enough heat to sustain a sizable ecosystem. I've planted trees and bushes all around to make my environs a bit more friendly.

Ho Ho Ho!
[ Parent ]

Aha. So. . . (none / 0) (#48)
by IHCOYC on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 08:12:25 PM EST

. . . that's why there's a hole in the ozone layer. Now we know.

Choke the last Santa with the guts of the last reindeer!
[ Parent ]

Actually (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by Santa Claus on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 08:52:01 PM EST

That's mostly due to reindeer emissions. They burn through quite a bit of fuel during the big night.

Ho Ho Ho!
[ Parent ]
Wormholes (4.85 / 7) (#16)
by Daemosthenes on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 11:19:47 AM EST

Wormholes are necessarily, time-space dilations, correct?

We all know that Santa has a very short turnaround time. Recieving his lists of Christmas wishes only weeks if not days before the 25th, there is nearly no possible way he could fulfill his manufacturing orders. What if Santa accepted all lists by Christmas, then began working backwards in time using wormholes; he could recieve lists on the 25th, then spend the entire year traveling back in time to the same instant on the night of the 25th in order to deliever presents as he completes them. So, in effect, Santa would be working throughout the year on last year's Chritmas gifts, passing them backwards through time to place under a the trees of good boys and girls of the year before.

This poses an interesting question - how does the behavior of a formerly good boy or girl during the current year reflect on the gift Santa gives them in the past? Would their behavior actually change in backward reaction to the gift they'd been given on Christmas? Stupid time paradoxes.

What do you think of the overall idea? I'm by no means a theoretical physicist, but this might help the article in explanation.

No need for working backwards in tim (none / 0) (#36)
by dirvish on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 04:33:30 PM EST

He just orders everything from Amazon.

Technical Certification Blog, Anti Spam Blog
[ Parent ]
One point in time (none / 0) (#52)
by qwertyasher on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 09:14:55 PM EST

I think its been established that santa's workforce is of an extrodinary size, and would be all but impossible to conceal at the north pole, so perhaps santa only exists in a frozen instant in time, and from there uses said wormholes to distribute gifts to each child from every december 25th ever. So rather than santa's workshop being like its always christmas, it is literally every christmas at santas workshop
The party says there are five, how many fingers are there, winston?
[ Parent ]
Extended, this takes care of the energy issue... (none / 0) (#47)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 07:22:29 PM EST

Instead of having Santa going a few months back to the same instant, we can suppose that Santa really exists in the far future. He and his team have tapped the energy of a few stars, maybe a few colliding black holes, and whatever else needed to send wormholes back to all of the Christmas Eve nights.

Given such sources of energy, they may even create the toys using some sort of energy-to-matter conversion.

[ Parent ]

+1FP I like it. (2.33 / 3) (#19)
by dcturner on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 12:25:58 PM EST

But in the southern hemisphere even deciduous trees are green on the day. Mmm, turkey barbecue on the beach...

Remove the opinion on spam to reply.

Plants don't respond to emotions. (none / 0) (#20)
by haflinger on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 12:36:48 PM EST

Everybody knows they only respond to emoticons. ;)

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
emoticons :) (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by dirvish on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 05:44:37 PM EST

Plants don't respond to emotions.

Sure they do. They like to be talked to also.

Technical Certification Blog, Anti Spam Blog
[ Parent ]
Of course (5.00 / 4) (#42)
by I Am An Orange So There on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 06:33:58 PM EST

Your gaseous talking produces delicious CO2, meatling. It is the only reason we plants keep you filthy fleshbags around.

Navel gazers unite!
[ Parent ]
Fake Trees (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by cod on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 01:50:53 PM EST

Is it possible that an evergreen has the ability to convert local kinetic energy into supporting it's end of Santa's wormhole How does this work with an artifical tree? Although I abhor the things, the facts do show that Santa visits the kids whose parents put up fake trees too.

Hm (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by carbon on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 02:53:35 PM EST

Maybe they aren't fake; instead, they're merely Evergreen 2.0, requiring no watering or maintanence, never changing from their original perfect dimensions, and never dropping needles. The only issue left for Dr. Claus to resolve is the texture of the material...

Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
"Dr Claus" (none / 0) (#38)
by DesiredUsername on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 05:08:36 PM EST

Damn, that's good.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
go-go gadget comment (5.00 / 2) (#40)
by dirvish on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 05:40:09 PM EST

Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on inspector gadget?

Technical Certification Blog, Anti Spam Blog
[ Parent ]
Chuck the tree part (none / 0) (#66)
by p3d0 on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 08:57:35 AM EST

This article is fantastic, right up until the tree part, which I found to be a rather weak ending. The whole thing is very scientific until the issue of converting people's "hopes and dreams" into energy arises. I say scrap that part, and it will improve the article. (Not to mention replacing "it's" with "its".)
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Santa? (none / 0) (#32)
by RoOoBo on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 03:29:38 PM EST

Nick? Flying reindeers?

I wonder what you are talking about ...

I believe (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by duxup on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 03:29:43 PM EST

For all you believers out there don't forget to track Santa with the help of NORAD.

-1, Too many articles to vote on (n/t) (1.75 / 4) (#35)
by buck on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 04:20:27 PM EST

“You, on the other hand, just spew forth your mental phlegmwads all over the place and don't have the goddamned courtesy to throw us a tissue afterwards.” -- kitten
Obligatory cDc link (none / 0) (#37)
by tzanger on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 04:49:22 PM EST

My Life as Santa's Rubber-Clad Love Slave

Merry Christmas/ (none / 0) (#50)
by bjlhct on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 08:23:36 PM EST

Happy Holidays

kur0(or)5hin - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
How (2.00 / 1) (#55)
by medham on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 11:42:15 PM EST

Is it that a story with a glaring typo in the first sentence gets posted to the front page with nary a word of complaint? Is it because you, the readers of the site, are mostly functionally illiterate?

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

'wend' is a word. (none / 0) (#56)
by semantix on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 12:08:41 AM EST

wend. v. go. Example: wend one's way.

But who really cares?


[ Parent ]

The problem isn't with wend... (none / 0) (#57)
by numark on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 12:23:54 AM EST

No, I think what is being referred to here is the use of the word "it's".

It's = "it is"

its = possessive

The correct form in this case is the possessive form. That's not what's there, and that's where the grammatical error is.

[ Parent ]

How (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by synaesthesia on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 06:10:17 AM EST

is it that a troll can't tell the difference between a typo and a grammatical mistake? It is because you, the author of this comment, are an arrogant ignoramus?

Sausages or cheese?
[ Parent ]
Because (none / 0) (#68)
by medham on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 12:31:25 PM EST

I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt. If you keep reading and writing, however, the functional illiteracy blues will go away.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

I noticed the same thing (none / 0) (#64)
by DesiredUsername on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 08:04:00 AM EST

There are several errors in there that I only noticed after the 2 hour edit queue stint. Thanks a lot, edit queue.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Stargate FatBoy 1? (none / 0) (#58)
by obyteme on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 03:12:55 AM EST

To err is human, or I could be wrong.
If you can't poke fun at it, get a sharper wit.

Quantum (4.80 / 5) (#60)
by Captain Bonzo on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 04:27:32 AM EST

I thought it was clear that Father Christmas exploits some quantum phenomena to undertake his work. I cannot claim to fully understand the mechanics, but the essence is that on Xmas Eve he enters a state (probably the wrong word there from a technical POV) where he exists simultaneously in all houses, and thus all presents are delivered.

Of course this also explains why children must not stay up to watch for him -- any peeking risks collapsing his wave states and causing all sorts of trouble.

It's called "quantum tunnelling". (none / 0) (#69)
by MichaelCrawford on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 10:31:12 PM EST

Quantum tunneling is the effect where the wavefunction of a particle that's localized inside an energy barrier has a non-zero value outside the barrier.

In general, particle wavefunctions extend throughout the universe. They may have regions where the wavefunction has zero amplitude, but in general a particle's wavefunction will be small but non-zero everywhere except where the particle appears to be in the classical sense, where it will have a large amplitude.

Particles can interact via quantum tunnelling. Imagine the situation where two marbles sit in two buckets side-by-side, without enough kinetic energy to lift themselves out of the bucket. They still have a non-zero probabibility of colliding.

Without quantum tunnelling, the sun wouldn't shine. That's because the particles in the core of the sun are not going fast enough as a result of their thermal energy to overcome the energy barrier of their electromagnetic repulsion.

But because of quantum tunnelling, there is enough amplitude inside each other's energy barrier that they can interact and fuse to the extent that we observe.

The fact that your wavefunction extends throughout all space causes a small but non-zero chance of your instantaneously traveling anywhere in the universe. This appears to be faster-than-light travel, but it's not really, because your wavefunction had to get there first.

I imagine Santa is just exploiting this to a degree that is more frequent than commonly found in nature.

(I'm a Physics guy too.)


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

[ Parent ]

For god's sake (none / 0) (#72)
by A Trickster Imp on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 08:07:31 AM EST

For god's sake, people.

If Santa can create wormholes, he can manipulate the mass of his own sleigh and body and actually visit some 200 houses per second on the 24 hour period of Christmas, well below the speed of light.

Simple force fields would protect both him and the places he visits from "sonic booms" and incineration due to friction.  These would, indeed, be minimal givin his ability to change size to fit down chimneys and through keyholes.

A wormhole, in addition to being needless, would be far too dangerous as the air pressure differences on either side could be formidable.  Although they could be overcome with force fields, he'd have to create some kind of force field airlock, and what's the point anyway when he doesn't need them?

[ Parent ]

This is quite definintly the way it happens. (none / 0) (#71)
by gte910h on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 11:51:51 AM EST

Its the only plausable explaination, and one I will use on my kids if they ever ask.

[ Parent ]
Analysis Pre-dates the Internet (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by GuyZero on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 11:58:31 AM EST

Ok, the analysis of which the poster speaks doesn't predate the Internet pre se, but it was around long before email was used by the great masses.

The original article appeared in Spy magazine sometime in the mid 1980's - I distinctly remeber reading it while I was in high school, '85 to '89.

At any rate, let's all take this holiday season to remember that satire wasn't invented on the Internet.

Yes (none / 0) (#70)
by MacAndrew on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 04:24:21 AM EST

I remember the original story complete with some nice graphics of reindeer melting on re-entry.

Sometimes satire is just funny in its own right, not as an effort to debunk the original.  And what's funnier than melting reindeer???  Or a physicist taking Santa Claus literally?

A better formatted version: http://funnies.paco.to/santa.html

Did Spy Magazine vaporize?  This one is not: http://www.spy-magazine.net/

[ Parent ]

The Science of Christmas | 73 comments (62 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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