Science of Santa: Travel, age and all those cookies

By Manhattan Public Library

How does Santa Claus visit all the children of the world in a single night? Is there some special significance in Santa’s red suit? How do reindeer fly? Inquiring minds, young and old, have many questions about the magic of Christmas.

Authoritative websites differ on how Santa Claus pulls off his supernatural feat each December. “The Physics of Christmas,” for example, calculated that Santa would have to visit 768 homes every second, and that’s assuming he had 31 hours to work with. The few extra hours are thanks to different time zones and the rotation of the earth, with Santa traveling east to west.


“The Physics of Santa” reminds us that strange things happen as objects move faster, approaching the speed of light. Travel faster than the speed of light (“Star Trek” demonstrated that this is possible), and time runs backwards. Once Santa accelerates his sleigh faster than light speed, he could easily visit every child on the planet and arrive safely home at the North Pole, before he even left.


At only 99.999999 percent of light speed, Santa would need a mere 500 seconds (a little over 8 minutes) to deliver all the presents to all the children in the world. The “FermiNews” site warns of the consequences of Santa travelling at such a speed. Santa, for example, could burn up in the intense heat caused by the friction of his headlong rush through the atmosphere. This same website answers the question as to why Santa never seems to age. Remember that in approaching the speed of light, time slows down, thus Santa remains his jolly self with cherub face, round belly, and long white beard from generation to generation.


How does Santa find out who is naughty and who is nice? Is he omniscient, or merely a genius at engineering and physics? According to an article in the Los Angeles Times from Dec. 24, 2010, Santa may have developed a mile-wide antenna of super-thin mesh that, relying on the principles of electromagnetic induction, picks up brain waves of children around the world. Algorithms then organize the children’s desires and behaviors, and microprocessors feed the data to the guidance system of Santa’s sleigh.


Young inquiring minds should check out “Christmas Unwrapped: a Kid’s Winter Wonderland of Holiday Trivia” by Amy Shields.

They’ll find answers (or at least speculations) to the questions of why Santa looks the way he does, and how he can be seemingly everywhere at once, not to mention the answer to the question of just who brings presents to kids in other countries.

Remember kids, Santa sees you when you’re sleeping, and he knows when you’re awake, so to be safe, do the right thing. You might consider a handbook for relating to the big man. “How to Talk to Santa” by Alec Greven fits the bill.

Greven, ten years old himself, knows it’s easy to go wild when Santa is on his way and explains how to avoid Santa-trouble. He reminds kids of all ages that there is a 99.999999999 percent chance that you will never catch Santa in the act. So, why take the risk?

Look to one of several websites for answers to just about any question about Santa Claus and the North Pole. Visit “Ask Santa” to discover what allows reindeer to fly. Is it the magic of believing, or something in their diet?


And just what is so special about that red suit? Maybe it’s Mrs. Claus’ favorite color, or just maybe that red suit has special super elastic properties that allow Santa to consume all those cookies and that milk at millions of houses, taking in nearly 21 billion calories in the course of a single night. That’s a lot of stretching.

Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | The Manhattan Mercury, 318 North 5th Street, Manhattan, Kansas, 66502 | Copyright 2016