How Santa may use science to create, deliver presents

Even though Santa Claus has been around a long time, he's always kept up-to-date with current trends in toys — even the technological ones. And although he is traditionally seen as using magic to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve, I like to think that he's kept up advances in science to make that yearly trip.

The classic view of Santa's workshop is elves sitting at workbenches, carefully constructing toys for him to deliver. However, these days the elves' probably have it a little easier due to 3D printing technology. Also called 'additive manufacturing', the process is similar to a standard inkjet printer, except instead of laying down ink onto a page, it builds up an object, bit by bit, by laying down layers of plastics, metals or resins. Guided by a computer program, this process is limited only by the imagination of the designer, and it could produce any of the toys that end up under our Christmas trees.

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Getting around the world in just one night is a daunting prospect, especially while carrying enough presents for billions of people. Usually, Santa is portrayed as just starting out and making it all in one pass, but with his home at the North Pole, he could very easily be using 'sub-orbital spaceflight' to make his rounds. Starting at the International Date Line, he could be making multiple round-trips south from the North Pole and then back. It may seem like this zig-zagging route would take longer than just flying straight around the world, but by making each flight at about 120 km above the Earth's surface, traveling at around seven kilometres per second, even delivering presents to scientists working at the South Pole would only take around 45 minutes. So, he could make it there and then work his way back towards the North Pole in the next time-zone and still have time for a bit of a rest before his next flight. This flight plan would allow Santa to carry less with him on each trip (unless he was using 'extra-dimensional space') and it would let him adapt to last-minute changes people's Christmas lists and to his own Naughty & Nice list.

Now, you may be thinking "but Scott, how can he be getting the toys under the tree when he's 120km above the ground?" That's easy. He uses 'quantum teleportation'. The longest teleportation that has been achieved in open air is 143 kilometres, which is more than enough distance for Santa to get the toys under the tree as he passes overhead. Scientists may have only worked with photons and particles so far, but necessity is the mother of invention, and Santa's need for a quick delivery method can easily have brought about an advance to the technology that allows him to teleport whole objects — wrapping, bows and all — while picking up the cookies and milk that have been left out for him.

I know, I know, there may be people saying "Santa is magic. Not science", but as science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke said: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Merry Christmas

(Reuters photo)

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