It won’t be too long now before Santa makes his annual trek around the world, dropping off iPhones, Chromebooks, and all manner of gadgets for those of us who made the “good” list this year. But have you ever stopped to consider the tech behind this effort? Let’s set aside for a moment the sheer magnitude of the supply-side logistics. We know, for example, that iPhones are designed in California but made in Asia. So how do they get to the North Pole in time for Santa’s trip?
Digging through the North Carolina State University site archives, we learn a bit more about the technology powering Kris Kringle. Bottom line: he’s way ahead of us.
“Santa is using technologies that we are not yet able to recreate in our own labs,” explains Dr. Larry Silverberg, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who just completed a six month visiting-scholar program at Santa’s Workshop-North Pole Labs (SW-NPL). “As the first scholar to participate in the SW-NPL program, I learned that we have a long way to go to catch up with Santa in fields ranging from aerodynamics and thermodynamics to materials science.”
So now we get down to the cutting-edge nuts and bolts of the sleigh. It’s thought that Santa’s current next-gen ride had an assist from people like the Air Force, the DOD, NSA, and three-letter-named groups we don’t even know about. Rumors were that Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs were locked in a fierce off-the-books battle to provide the OS, and what Santa went with is unknown to this day, although pundits think it’s a Linux setup.
It goes without saying that Santa has some serious horsepower under the hood — the reindeer are mainly just for show and those of us old enough to remember the 1960s Rudolph special, though it’s believed that their antlers are coated with some type of radar-reflective material. Santa must have some stealth capability, otherwise those pesky air force planes from around the world would be dogging him from Thailand to Tennessee.
And while Santa is a jolly old elf, his ride has to come with some type of defensive weaponry in the event of trouble. Counter measures to throw off the scent of surface fired missiles in some hostile countries, for example. And GPS is a given.
As always, the numbers determine whether this is realistic or not. Let’s take a peek at some data as seen in The Telegraph. If Santa has to fly 510,000,000 km on Christmas Eve and has, say, 32 hours to get ‘er done, that means he’s traveling at 10,703,437.5 kph — or 1,800 miles per second, all night long. This is assuming he never stops. So add in some type of deployment system. A heatshield is necessary, since when you are moving that fast, friction gets a bit tricky. And then you have to factor in the sheer tonnage of the toys. Rumors are that a secret MIT skunkworks took 10 years to crunch the numbers (“Operation Golden Flight”) to get the proper thrust-to-weight ratio. And while warp drive has traditionally been something only Scotty can deliver on board the Enterprise, a Stardust Antimatter Propulsion Unit has real potential.
Realistically, we’re thinking that Mr. Kringle must have some Amazon Prime side deal to take care of these orders. The Telegraph also noted that Santa will need to wrap 3.7 billion packages (and then haul ‘em all) so the Amazon thing makes sense. Or maybe there are a fleet of sleighs, and he contracts out some body doubles?