maintain that the laws of physics should prevent Santa
Claus from delivering all his gifts and that Santa
would burn up in the atmosphere if he tried. The internet
magazine, forskning.no, has put together a team of
four top researchers to look into the case. The panel’s
conclusion is clear: Santa can do the job and Christmas
Christmas, calculations circulate that have been dubbed
“The Physics of Santa Claus”. The calculations cast
doubt as to whether Santa Claus could possibly deliver
gifts to all the world’s good children – and still
remain within the laws of physics. To deliver gifts
to all who deserve them, they assert, Santa would
need to move so fast that he would vaporise due to
air resistance, be torn to pieces by gravitational
forces or suffer other terrible fates we wouldn’t
wish for Santa Claus.
fall for these calculations. Yes, there has even been
one instance in which a vicar was criticised for using
them to explain to small children that Santa does
not exist. Luckily, some would say, the vicar has
apologised to the traumatised children.
even though the physics of the calculations is apparently
good, the reasoning rests on a completely wrong premise,
namely that Santa Clause does not exist. Even small
children understand that this premise is completely
will Santa Claus ensure that all the good children
receive their presents and once again save Christmas?
To clear up this important question, Internet magazine
forskning.no has gathered four the country’s sharpest
researchers: astrophysicist Knut Jørgen Røed
Ødegaard, professor of physics Gaute Einevoll,
professor of mathematics Nils Lid Hjort and Elf expert
taken the job very seriously.
Santa Claus is to deliver all the gifts to all the
good children, his sleigh must fly so fast that he
would burn up due to air resistance. But it has already
been documented that Santa has no problem climbing
down a chimney with a fire burning below. So how does
Santa solve the problem of heat?
obviously has an ion-shield of charged particles,
held together by a magnetic field, surrounding his
entire sleigh. This is how he solves the heat problem,"
points out Knut Jørgen Røed Oedegaard,
who also casts a new light in the night sky:
are many meteor showers in December. Many astrophysicists,
including apparently serious ‘celebrity’ astrophysicists
at the university, who maintain that these lights
in the sky are the result of dust particles that burn
up as they enter our atmosphere. But this is nonsense,
because they ignore the truth: That the lights are
the result of Santa Claus moving out of and into the
atmosphere as he travels around the globe delivering
believes that Santa saves time, energy and air resistance
by producing gifts out in space. A new snowboard or
doll weights quite little when it is high above the
Santa Claus doesn’t travel in our four dimensions
(remember that time is the fourth dimension), but
makes use of some 11 dimensions. These dimensions
make it quite easy to pick up gifts from his warehouse
at the North Pole," emphasises Oedegaard, while
Nils Lid Hjort and Gaute Einevoll feel that recent
string-theory allows for the use of at least 26 dimensions.
more dimensions, the easier to deliver gifts.
= Santa Claus?
physics are Gaute Einevoll’s speciality, and he brings
a bold hypothesis to the table:
are talking about moving matter, and no one had more
knowledge about matter than Albert Einstein. Do I
need to point out that the dishevelled physicist reminds
many of Santa Claus? Einstein published his special
theory of relativity in 1905 and his general theory
of relativity in 1916, but after Coca-Cola more or
less defined Santa’s ‘look’ in 1930, Einstein didn’t
publish that much more. I have wondered if that’s
because Einstein became Santa," speculates Einevoll.
believes that the reason that Einstein never was able
to link together quantum theory and relativity is
due to the fact that the famous tussled head was busy
in secret helping Santa to become a kind of “Quanta
Santa Claus – A Threat to the Environment?
though Santa uses both the ion-shield and travels
between dimensions, the problem of air resistance
remains," allows astrophysicist Oedegaard.
are so many more people now, and so many more good
children, that there are more gifts and thus more
air resistance. Therefore, it is natural to explain
the warming up of the polar region with all the extra
heat that is released. But this problem will solve
itself over time, because if children are too good,
then all the ice at the North Pole melt. Then there
will be no more winter, and thus no more Christmas."
leads to a discussion of ‘the bad children problem’:
Why do bad children also receive gifts and whether,
out of respect for the environment, children should
be a little more naughty – without creating more problems
with discipline in school.”
expert Ane Ohrvik believes we should turn it around.
Santa Clause should raise his standards?” she asks,
and recommends a point system for naughty children.
Santa has been receiving more and more mail every
year, and for him to also send a “report card” could
create a big postal problem, she points out.
Lid Hjort suggests that the bureaucracy can be cut
back if every family reports on children’s behaviour
direct to the local authorities.
Santa Sees You
question is how Santa Claus knows how nice children
are. Gaute Einevoll suggests that children’s winter
caps can measure brain activity in order to read the
infinitesimal magnetic fields that are generated by
their thoughts. This information is then forwarded
to Rudolf’s antlers, which of course act as an advanced
Ohrvik points out that many Americans believe that
Rudolf’s red nose is a very advanced navigation system
and everyone knows the saying “Santa Claus sees you”
– something some interpret to mean that Santa Claus
has psychic abilities.
Nils Lid Hjort’s opinion, it suggests co-operation
between Santa Claus and the defunct East-European
secret police: STASI.
STASI archives are still secret, and this is a clear
indication that information about nice and naught
children is there,” believes Hjort, who doesn’t rule
out co-operation with local security services, which
often have the latest information on whether a child
is naughty or nice.
apparent impossibility with Santa Claus are his reindeer,
who don’t just plod along. Nils Lid Hjort doesn’t
find it so strange that there are flying reindeer.
find flying creatures everywhere, and dinosaurs are
a good example, but now they have developed feathers
and are birds. Therefore it is no great paradox that
we have flying reindeer,” he believes.
Einevoll, who works with physics in organic systems,
points out that it is a bit odd that reindeer don’t
have wings. But Ødegaard has elegantly solved
Claus of course uses vacuum energy. The sleigh and
reindeer use repulsive energy to compensate for the
force of gravity and therefore can fly."
with that, the conversation turns to a discussion
whether Santa has chosen the North Pole because of
its social, religious and political neutrality; multiple
universes with a Santa in each; and so on.
Papa With a Fake Beard?
are quite a few flippant and speculative assertions
about Santa Claus. The most ridiculous of these is
that Santa Claus is just papa who has dressed up in
is the worst I have heard,” says Nils Lid Hjort.
is a professor and knows what he’s talking about.
Hjort admits that a visit from Santa Claus often happens
while pappa is out shovelling snow, there are many
examples in which both Santa and pappa are in the
same place at the same time, which weakens the argument
that there is some connection between the two.
want to comment on the alternative situations: Of
course you can find many trivial and sometimes fake
Santas out there. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t
find some real Santas," says Einevoll, who adds:
I lived alone at the North Pole and were to visit
children and their mothers, I would want to do it
when their father was out, he says, and suggests that
this is the source for the socially realistic popular
song 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'."
together the panel the panel agrees without doubt
that Santa Claus not only makes use of advanced physics,
but he is also a brilliant organiser.
lives at the North Pole and there isn’t so much happening
aside from the occasional polar explorer. So he can
use the whole year for self improvement,” points out
all children of all ages can relax: The laws of physics
assure us that Christmas will come this year as usual!
Joergen Roed Oedegaard is a researcher with the Astrophysics
Institute at the University of Oslo.
Ohrvik is a folklorist and has recently published
the book “Elves – From Saints to Spitfires” with Humanist
Lid Hjort is a professor of mathematics and statistics
at the University of Oslo.
Einevoll is a professor of physics at the Agricultural
University of Norway (NLH) and media contact for World
Year of Physics 2005
More about Santa Claus calculations:
about the vicar who was criticised: