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The Science Behind Santa’s Sleigh

Author: Jean Claude Ted Isidor

Editors: Junyu Zheng and Flynn Ma

Artist: Becky Li

Christmas time is, without a doubt, the best time of the year. With all the joy, gifts, and positivity in the air, it’s hard to argue otherwise. One of the most important people on this holiday is, of course, Santa Claus. With his “existence,” many interesting questions arise, such as how Santa can travel around the world in one night and how heavy his bag is. 



Mr. Claus has to fly at unimaginable speeds to travel around Earth in one night. According to the Southern California Geographic Information System, he must travel at a speed at least three thousand times that of sound. Considering that the fastest speed that an airplane can now reach is about seven times the speed of sound, this is an absurd figure (airandspace.edu). Furthermore, a mechanism for slowing down is required because Santa can't possibly descend a chimney while his ride is taking off. Next, another way for Santa to travel across the world in time is through Einstein’s theory of relativity. This theory views planets, stars, and all the galaxies acting as balls on a trampoline, with the fabric of space bending according to the mass(the greater the mass, the more space-time bends). If Santa were to find a way to bend the fabric of space, he would be able to get from point A to point B in record time. This, however, involves the use of undiscovered technology, but who knows? Maybe Santa’s workers up in the North Pole are physicists. Whether strapping huge jet engines on the back of his sleigh or bending space works, Santa finds a way to get the job done regardless of his methods.

Now we have a rough idea of how Santa can get around the world on the night of Christmas Eve, but the next mind-boggling puzzle to solve is how Santa’s bag can hold all the gifts he has to give. Santa’s bag has to hold an estimated 8.4 million tons (towerfast). Therefore, Santa’s bag must be extremely large and made of a material that can hold all those gifts without tearing. It might be a bit of a stretch to say this, but according to an article by the University of Alberta, nanotechnology best solves this dilemma. Another way Santa’s bag might be able to carry all those gifts is by shrinking them, which would defy the basic laws of matter. According to Erik Aver, an assistant physics professor at Gonzaga University, the only way to “shrink” an item is to either remove or decrease the atoms' size (NBC).  Both methods are unlikely to work, given the objects Santa is dealing with. 

All of this speeding up, slowing down, and morphing of space and time takes a toll on the body, so what properties must Santa’s suit possess? Santa’s suit, as subtle as it is, has to handle extreme heat, cold, rain, and snow. According to an article by the University of Alberta, he would require a multilayered outfit to address all these challenges while retaining the iconic look. Elements such as an insulated layer, waterproofing, and so forth are highly needed. 

As you can tell by now, Santa Claus has to overcome many scientific hurdles to get the job done. Through discussing the impossible, however, we can push some of the mental boundaries we have and, in turn, make genuine progress in the field of science. In layman’s terms, thinking outside the box can help make the impossible possible.

 

Citations:

Carson, Michael. “The Physics of Santa.” The Physics of Santa, SoCalGIS.org, 23 Dec. 2015, socalgis.org/2015/12/23/the-physics-of-santa/

%20a%20hypersonic%20ramjet. Accessed 5 Jan. 2024. 

“The Science of Santa Claus.” The Science of Santa Claus | Tower Fasteners,

2024. 

Wagstaff, Keith. “Why Shrinking like ‘ant-Man’ Is Impossible.” NBCNews.Com,

NBCUniversal News Group, 17 July 2015, www.nbcnews.com/science/weird-

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