Appliance of Science: Answering the questions kids have at Christmas

CHRISTMAS is a time of joy and wonder, and an increased amount of probing questions from little scientific minds, writes Dr Naomi Lavelle

Appliance of Science: Answering the questions kids have at Christmas

Here are just a few that I have been asked recently…

How does Santa deliver all the presents in one night?

Firstly, because of the different time zones, Santa has more than one night; assuming he travels east to west, he has about 32 hours in total.

But he still has to cover a huge distance in that time, about half a billion kilometres!

So how does he do it?

It would appear that Santa and his team of scientists (elves) are far more advanced than us in the theories of the time-space continuum and relativity.

Two main theories have been proposed, the first is that he can literally generate holes in space, sometimes referred to as wormholes that allow him to travel through time zones in an instant.

The second theory is that he stretches time itself, just like a rubber band, creating something called “relativity clouds”.

Either system would require the generation of a massive amount of energy and this part still has scientists baffled.

How does he carry all the presents in one sleigh?

Scientists used to argue a great deal about this.

Some theorised that Santa had toys stashed throughout his route ahead of time, and, with his time warping, had enough time to stop off and replenish his supplies.

Others suggested he used advanced nanotechnology, bringing the toys in tiny form and then enlarging and completing them in each house he visited.

Now that 3D printing has become the norm, it is thought that Santa has had this technology for a long time and he is able to create the toys from the sleigh as he goes.

A sleigh equipped with 3D printing technology well beyond our own abilities.

How does Santa land the sleigh on a sloped roof?

Firstly, Santa chooses the best part of the roof for landing, turning the sleigh in an upward angle, along the side of the roof, rather than landing on the very top point.

This makes a lot more sense as the upward pitch of the roof would actually act to slow and stop the sleigh more quickly.

The latest model of Santa’s sleigh is equipped with retractable flaps for the purpose of landing, increasing the lift, drag and decent angle of the sleigh.

The skis, or runners, on the sleigh are also key to a safe and efficient roof landing.

Apparently the sleigh skis are splayed out on landing, providing drag and stability.

The skis are made of a honeycombed titanium alloy, a light-weight but extremely durable material that can withstand the impact of even the most bumpy roof landing.

It is thought that the skis have unidirectional nano-grooves, increasing their coefficient of friction by a factor of 10 but, with a simple alteration of the contact angle, this value can be greatly reduced, aiding a smooth take off.

Given Santa’s love of animals and his scientific curiosity of the design and architecture of nature, it is highly likely that he has developed a gripping system whereby the skis bond with the roof surface at a molecular level, much like the hairs on a geckos feet.

Whatever way Santa does it he must be doing it right as there are no reported cases of property damage from Santa’s sleigh.

If you hear a little kerfuffle on the roof on Christmas Eve night you will know that he still has a bit of a way to go in perfecting a silent landing!

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