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The North American Aerospace Defense Command track Santa Claus' position each year as he delivers presents. Santa has mostly been cool with this (it's made him a little nervous in the past), but he's afraid that Norad may be in league with the NSA. In any event, Santa is done with Norad tracking him.

What can Santa Claus do to prevent Norad from tracking him?

  • This article explains how Norad tracks Santa.
  • Information about Santa can be found here
    • The site is unfortunately interactive, so I can't give a direct link. Click the library. The Library also includes specs for Santa's sleigh.
  • While we're at it, he would like to prevent the North pole from being spied upon.
  • He still wants to be able to carry out his normal duties.
  • Although he would like to avoid it, Santa is willing to authorize lethal force if required.

NOTE: Norad is an intelligent, competent, and adaptable adversary. We will need as many answers as possible if Santa is to defeat Norad.

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    $\begingroup$ Are you saying that the guy who, for a huge portion of the world's subadult population, "knows when you're sleeping, knows when you're awake, knows if you've been bad or good", is worried about the measly NSA? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Dec 15 '15 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ OMG! Santa is the NSA! $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Dec 15 '15 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ Santa wants to keep the NSA from spying on the North pole? Well, all he has to do is accelerate global warming and then submerge his operations. And at this point, he might not have much input on that happening anyway. $\endgroup$ – Ellesedil Dec 17 '15 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ youtube.com/watch?v=gb_x5_qKk0c $\endgroup$ – A. C. A. C. Dec 29 '17 at 17:43

11 Answers 11

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There's no indication that Santa's sleigh is equipped with any traditional aircraft transponders, so he doesn't need to worry about disabling those.

The sleigh's radar cross-section is minimal, if we're assuming that the toys he carries are stashed in a "pocket universe". Otherwise, the overall mass of various bits of radar-reflective materials of all the toys, constrained within the dimensions of a sack tote-able by a human-sized Santa, might create some sort of super-dense, highly radar-reflective ball. To be careful, I'd suggest Santa replace his sack with a multifaceted, radar-reflective storage pod (think the body shape of the F-117 Nighthawk), additionally covered in radar-absorbent materials. I don't think that NORAD has jurisdiction to commandeer the Gravity Probe B, and in any case, I'm unsure that it could be used to probe for the terrestrial-based gravity anomaly that his toy sack might cause.

Heat signature could also prove to be a problem. While neither Santa nor the reindeer have significant BTU output, the high travel speeds might cause superheating of his sleigh. Adding some silica glass insulation, like that used in the Space Shuttle's thermal protective tiles, might mitigate this.

I'd definitely suggest Santa install terrain-following radar with details maps of his flight path, so he can maintain a low altitude and avoid detection by NORAD's radar systems. However, this causes some radar emissions, so he might prefer to stick to traditional nap-of-the-earth flight, although doing this manually could be stressful at higher speeds.

I would also definitely suggest that he ask Rudolph to kill his running light, to avoid visual spotting, and invest in some night vision equipment. Muting his sleigh bells would also be wise.

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    $\begingroup$ radar-reflective storage pod, additionally covered in radar-absorbent materials Do you want to reflect or to absorb? Pick one. Perhaps you were thinking about deflecting? $\endgroup$ – Mast Dec 17 '15 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Mast: You can do both! The facets can reflect some of the radar, and the materials can absorb. I had the lifting body of the F-117 primarily in mind. $\endgroup$ – Wingman4l7 Dec 23 '15 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ I never thought I would be this interested in knowing what the mass of all Christmas gifts given in an average year is. $\endgroup$ – Muuski Dec 28 '17 at 17:55
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My Dad, in the USAF was stationed in Newfoundland in mid 60's and participated in tracking Santa.

I get the idea that the signature shows up clearly on purpose as a courtesy for air safety and nervous vigilant observers watching for missles coming over the pole.

So if Santa didn't want that, he could simply retain the natural biological signal, not carry a transponder, or reverse the magic and hide the signature instead.

Joe Bloggs points out that Rudolph and his red nose is a rather recent addition. Clearly the real reason for a red light at the nose of the vehicle is for air traffic safety, not to function as a headlight. It was first noticed and commented on in 1939, which matches the first use of long-distance perimiter radar in Great Britain. So the transponder mignt not be the same device as the lamp, but it seems that adding Rudolph was a general air-traffic safety upgrade. I expect his magic includes the active radar reflection that encodes IFF, as well as visibility light and perhaps other more subtle features that the folks at aviation.SE might speculate on (if not write folksongs about).

So to be stealthy, he would simply leave Rudolph behind.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure that's the purpose of Rudolph's nose. He hasn't always been glowy! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 15 '15 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ Rudolph's nose was first noticed and commented on in 1939, which indeed matches the first use of long-distance perimiter radar in Great Britain. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Dec 15 '15 at 16:40
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Santa's goin on Strike!

Santa could practice some non-violent resistance and simply refuse to make deliveries until his privacy is restored.

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  • $\begingroup$ How could he know for sure when Norad stops tracking him. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Dec 15 '15 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ @PyRulez "He knows if you've been bad or good..." Santa has good intel. $\endgroup$ – apaul Dec 15 '15 at 0:13
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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't actually answer the question. $\endgroup$ – Wingman4l7 Dec 15 '15 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Wingman4l7 Could you elaborate on how it doesn't answer the question? $\endgroup$ – The Anathema Dec 15 '15 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ @TheAnathema The question mentions the specifications of Santa's sleigh and states that he "still wants to be able to carry out his normal duties." Of course he can't be tracked if he doesn't make his flight, that's stating the obvious -- the asker wants to know how Santa can achieve both. $\endgroup$ – Wingman4l7 Dec 15 '15 at 20:38
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Given the speed and general abilities Santa must have, one potential solution (assuming no other method of preventing the tracking i.e. mega stealth panels or mind control) is to nonlinearise his trajectory. At the moment (presumably) Santa moves in a roughly linear pattern from one child's house to the next, being tracked as he goes.

Given that he seems able to move as fast as he likes, can carry an insane amount of mass in a tiny volume and change velocity at the drop of a hat, I think Santa's best bet would be to perform a series of vertical manoeuvres, shooting up above the Norad tracking ceiling, across to a new location, and then back down again. This would eliminate any hope Norad might have of maintaining a tracking lock and allow Santa to pick his next gift location pretty much at random, maintaining the utmost privacy.

Of course, it will increase his journey distance by an awful lot, but everyone knows he's working outside of the regular set of physical laws anyway, so why should he care!?

ADDENDUM: On the subject of hiding the north Pole: The north pole of where? I certainly wouldn't look for Santa on the north pole of Europa, for example!

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  • $\begingroup$ Norad's tracking ceiling is somewhere beyond the moon's orbit. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Dec 16 '15 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure the man with the beard can manage an extralunar trip or billion. :D $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 17 '15 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ Let's see, your billion extra-lunar trips take at least a billion and a half seconds unless you want to add to Santa an ability greater than all others we count now combined. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Dec 17 '15 at 17:50
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Santa has some special presents for the good engineering staff of Boeing, who are leaving stealth covering panels and ECM pods fitted for the reindeer and sled beside the usual plate of cookies and milk.

The bad engineering staff, and most of the management are not too worried, since the amount of coal they are getting in their stockings will go a long way to offsetting the heating bills this winter.....

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I'm fairly certain there must be ulterior motives here, or possibly inter-agency politicking and counter-cooperation. Santa "knows when you've been bad or good" is fairly strong evidence to him being in league with the NSA. Considering that NORAD is likely to be involved in the development of any military stealth program, SaNSAta is probably working on some sort of alternative stealth technology so they can more effectively spy on civilians and the military. We don't really want to help them, do we?

What? Oh, of course. Everybody knows proper eggnog has a decent helping of rum.

No! I have not had too much! You mean this isn't Skeptics.SE?

Oh... Um... nevermind, then!

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  • $\begingroup$ Santa totally created and is in charge of the NSA. Woe to all yee naughty boys and girls. $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz Dec 15 '15 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ I am skeptical about this not being " a Skeptics.SE for already-recognized-as-fictional circumstances" $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Dec 15 '15 at 21:32
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I think the question makes an important and possibly flawed assumption: that what NORAD tracks is actually Santa.

Think about it - given the speeds he's travelling, it's a safe bet that no-one has ever made a visual confirmation, much less managed to force the Fat Man down for customs inspections.

So, the answer could be simply that "NORAD has never tracked Santa, but it suits his purposes to let them think they are."

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    $\begingroup$ Now the question is who, or what, has Norad been tracking? $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Dec 23 '15 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @PyRulez Could be anything from Santa's Little Decoy, to a TLA blackops that uses Santa as cover. Heck, could be mundane mid-air resupplies for the sleigh. $\endgroup$ – Allen Gould Dec 25 '15 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ In 1955 the Soviets realized that reconnaissance aircrafts disguised as reindeer sleights could fly unmolested over all North-America and return safely to Siberia across the North Pole, provided that the trip was scheduled to the second half of December. They could even land in the ice of the Hudson Bay to be serviced by submarines. $\endgroup$ – Pere Dec 4 '16 at 10:58
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    $\begingroup$ What if all countries use the day to run recon flights, knowing that no country in the world wants to take the risk of accidentally shooting down the actual Santa? $\endgroup$ – Allen Gould Dec 4 '16 at 16:10
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The solution is to not fly at all. He can dig tunnels across the earth's surface to reach anywhere on the world undetected.

enter image description here

A version built by the elven would dig much faster than current speeds and allow perfect undetectability.

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If Santa doesn't want to be tracked, he just needs to make known that tracking him qualifies as "naughty behaviour" and therefore it makes people tracking him ineligible to get gifts. That would effectively discourage NORAD volunteers and sponsors from carrying on any kind of Santa tracking activity and NORAD will focus again on tracking hostile missiles and that stuff.

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Santa can use the intelligence, resources, and craftsmanship of his elves to produce some highly developed technology that disrupts the tracking technology of humanity. So on Christmas Eve/Day, all technologies are rendered useless until he's done giving gifts.

If he doesn't want to disrupt tracking technology at Norad in case they need it, he can simply use a sophisticated laser system, and blind any satellite or aircraft that's over the North Pole.

When traveling, he makes use of his magic. Perhaps he moves in four spatial dimensional space for a moment and vanish or can render himself such that light does not interact with the particles that compose him, his sleigh, and his reindeer. With the latter, there is no possible way to see him. And since the entire spectrum does not interact, no special cameras can see them, as well.

This would allow Santa to carry out his gift-giving and still evade Norad.

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Clearly, it is impossible for Santa to do his job the way he does unless he somehow violates what we consider the laws of physics.

I assume, Santa actually does not necessarily need his sledge, as he behaves in the macroscopic level like a quantum object - which means that he is actually everywhere at the same time until he collapses his wave function. In doing this, his position is determined and is able to put the gifts where they belong!

Since the Heisenberg's uncertainty principle says that you can't determine the position of a quantum object if it's momentum is precisely measurable, so you can't track Santa.

This is also the ability that allows Santa access to NORAD's mainframe, replacing data from the north pole with pre-recorded nonsense.

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