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Looking back at the Science of Santa’s Workshop

Silverberg on the outskirts of NPL.

Two years ago, a team of researchers from NC State participated in a visiting scholars program at Santa’s Workshop-North Pole Labs (NPL). They learned a lot, and shared their findings with us in a series of posts from that frostbitten font of seasonal science.

Santa’s annual moment in the spotlight is coming up fast, so we thought we’d share those posts with you again. Here’s a brief description of each entry, and a link to all of their notes from the North. The author of each post was Dr. Larry Silverberg, an expert in unified field theory in NC State’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

In The Science of Santa’s List, Silverberg explains that a sophisticated signal processing system filters data from kids, giving Santa clues on who wants what, where children live, and even who has been bad or good.

The Science of Santa’s Sleigh covers many aspects of the jolly old elf’s mode of transport, from the advanced materials used in its construction to the technology it uses to ensure a smooth ride.

How Santa Gets Around addresses not only the secret of the flying reindeer (jetpacks), but Santa’s ability to bend space-time in order to deliver all of his presents in one night.

In his last post, Santa’s Bag of Toys, Silverberg discusses the reversible thermodynamic processor used to assemble toys from the most unlikely of materials. So that’s how he fits them all in!

Enjoy these insights into the workings of the NPL, and happy holidays!

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  1. Wow that’s a great take on things John! As far as my kids are concerned though it’s just “magic” and that’s all that matters :).

  2. I’m a seventh grader at GC Hawley Middle School in Creedmoor, North Carolina and this is my version of the science of Santa.

    Almost everyone knows Santa Claus and knows that he delivers toys all over the world. But how does he fly with his reindeer and reach every good boy and girl in the world in only one night. Even if you consider differences in time zones, the international dateline, and the fact that not every boy and girl in the world is nice, I believe that Santa must work very hard to overcome the laws of forces, motion, and gravity.
    The first thing that Santa has had to overcome is gravity to get his reindeer to fly. Santa discovered a special breed of North Pole reindeer that have lighter bones, a more aerodynamic structure, and smooth, less wind resistant fur. The combination of these traits and magical acorn food makes it possible for the reindeer to fly. Over the years, Santa has had to reach more and more children as the world population has grown. As a result, Santa has bred faster and more reindeer to compensate and allow him to visit more home in the same amount of time.
    Even with flying reindeer, there is still an issue of reaching so many places in such a short time; in fact it is impossible for one Santa to be in more than one place at a time. For this reason, Santa has become a family business and there are actually seven different Clauses, one for each continent. Each Santa is sensitive to that continent’s cultural, physical, and toy needs. For example, for Africa, the reindeer used by that continent’s Santa have thinner fur and can cool more efficiently than the reindeer used in places like Europe. The Santa that cover’s Africa is also more in tune to summer toys that children typically ask for at Christmas.
    The other force that Santa has had to overcome is time—the strongest force of all. We all know that Santa has been around longer than any living person can remember and how is that possible? The first Santa realized that even with a healthy life style (which is pretty tough when all you eat is cookies and milk) that he would not live forever. Because he did not want disappoint future generations of good boys and girls, he and Mrs. Claus knew that they would have to pass the responsibility on to their children. At first, this responsibility was only given to sons, but over the years but in recent times (to be politically correct), daughters have also been included.
    The final piece to the success of the mission is the sleigh. With all of the toys the sleigh weighs close to one ton. So Santa had to build a sleigh that was both light and strong. Over the years, with Santa has moved to using carbon fiber to build his sleigh—carbon fiber is very light and very strong. Santa’s sleigh is aerodynamic and pushes air under it to give it lift and lessen the load on the reindeer. Santa’s large present bag is made out of rubberized silk; which can stretch, is light, and is smooth to reduce wind-resistance.
    When Santa first started, the world was smaller and simpler, but the forces of gravity, time, and friction still existed. That first Santa discovered the secrets to overcoming these forces and over the years the Clauses have used new technology and now knowledge to make it possible for them to continue their mission. As the population of the world has grown, the Clauses have had to continue to learn and adapt (Santa evolution). These three components (Santas, reindeer, and the sleigh) make it possible to deliver toys to all the good boys and girls all over the world in just one night.