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This related question asks about considerations for Santa's sleigh (particularly weight), but my question is more basic: how do you design a vehicle that satisfies Santa's design requirements, including the very tight schedule, in a way that doesn't turn Santa into a puddle of goo from high-Gs and vaporize the reindeer from wind-speed?

Key design requirements, as I understand them:

  • The vehicle must be able to support take-off and landing at the homes of all good children on Earth in a span of roughly 24 hours. (Good children on space colonies are excluded.) We can't afford a long pre-flight check; really, we probably don't even have time to open and close a hatch. (Art never shows a hatch anyway.)

  • Without knowing the number and distribution of stops we can only guess at the one-night mileage, but even at conservative estimates... mach-what? Gotta support super-high speed.

  • It's ok if maintenance and repairs take the next 363 days, but there's not going to be time on delivery night for pit stops and spot-repairs -- the vehicle needs to operate continuously during the delivery run. (Santa would probably prefer to be able to do a test-drive tuning check between deployments, however, so less-extensive maintenance is preferred.)

  • Santa, a well-padded humanoid, needs to survive the trip without long-term damage. As far as we know it's the same Santa every year.

  • The reindeer need to survive the trip. Santa is pretty cagey about the reindeer, though -- who'd know if Blitzen is the same Blitzen as last year? It's ok to assume that Santa runs a breeding program, though protections for the lead reindeer with the light-emitting mutation would be advisable.

  • There are no explicit requirements about materials or fuel sources.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think we have to assume that Santa, his reindeer, and the sled are all made of massless.......stuff. That would let him travel at the speed of light, or more specifically, always travel at the speed of light, which would (hopefully) have the side effect of protecting him from being jellified as well as not obliterating his destination. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Dec 22 '15 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ The sled and its payload can't be massless, though. Are you saying that a massless Santa et al would still work? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 22 '15 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ Darned if I know if you can construct Santa from massless particles. Probably not. But the question you are asking is "how do we protect Santa from being jellified?" to which: basically you can't, unless Santa has no mass ($F = ma, m = 0, F = 0$). $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Dec 22 '15 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ Santa must go in and out of faster-than-light travel; this will be a key factor to your answer: what happens to you when you break the laws of physics? $\endgroup$ – Mikey Dec 22 '15 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ Redbull gives you Wings! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 23 '15 at 3:38
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Santa has been running a successful deception operation for centuries, fooling people with aliases and disguises (Think about it. Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet certainly would surprise anyone looking for a jolly fat man in a red suit, wouldn't they...), but it is time the truth be told, and the answers to all the questions revealed.

Santa lives and operates in a pocket universe. enter image description here

Connected to our space-time continuum by a wormhole exiting at the North Pole, Santa's pocket universe (aka "the sack") allows him and his elves to manipulate the flow of time, mass and energy within as compared to the outside universe. Subjective years can pass inside "the sack" while milliseconds pass here on Earth, allowing Santa to prepare toys, make detailed observations of the children of Earth, prepare the Naughty and Nice list and have a friendly AI check it twice (another answer, I'm afraid) and do all the other preparatory work for the big night.

Getting from place to place and entering buildings and structures with or without chimneys is a side effect of the way "the sack" is structured. On Christmas Eve, the wormhole mouth is disconnected from the North Pole and attached to "the sleigh" where eight powerful "reindeer" pull it around and position it under the trees of deserving children (the origin of the terms "sleigh" and "reindeer" to describe these very high tech devices is obscure, and no consensus on the origin is possible, since every elf has a different version). As time and space are not synchronized between "the sack" and our universe, what seems to be a ponderous and drawn out year long operation inside "the sack" only takes from midnight to @ 0600 EST on Earth. Santa is fairly certain that extending the reach of "the sack" to children in Earth orbit and the Moon would not be much of an issue, but has some doubts about extending the operation beyond Cis Lunar space. (The Apollo 8 astronauts are said to have been particularly pleased with the presents they got aboard their Apollo CM on Christmas eve, 1968, but respected Santa's wishes and didn't tell mission control. Santa wanted to surprise Gene Kranz).

So there you have it. Santa is operating in a pocket universe with different properties and using a wormhole connection between where he is and us to find out "who's naughty and nice", prepare the toys and appear under the trees to deliver presents.

By the way, he asked me to tell you that while he does enjoy the milk and cookies, he would appreciate a glass of single malt scotch on the fireplace mantle as well...

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    $\begingroup$ Oh, thanks for the update on preferred refreshments. I had him pegged as more of a rum guy than a scotch guy. That's easily fixed. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 22 '15 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ I can concur with Thucydides. The scotch has dissipated every time we set it out for Santa. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 23 '15 at 3:39
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Let me introduce you to the concept of legendary matter. Legendary matter is mostly like ordinary matter; indeed, there's a legendary counterpart to each ordinary particle, having basically the same properties. With one exception: Instead of the ordinary charges, they have their own charge fields, the legendary charges. Correspondingly the legendary fields are completely separate from the ordinary fields. This allows legendary matter to freely move around and even through ordinary matter, without ever interacting with it, except through gravitation (that's inevitable).

Now you may wonder why researchers never have found that legendary matter. The answer is: They have; they just don't know. Legendary matter is part of the mysterious dark matter.

Now you may wonder how Santa can then deliver real presents, and how it can be that some people have indeed seen him and his sleight (although the latter is a very rare occurrence). Well, what I wrote above is not the whole story: There exist another field, which is able to convert between ordinary and legendary matter. Santa uses the conversion field generator for two purposes:

  • Quite obviously, he has to convert the gifts into normal matter when he lays them down under the Christmas tree.

  • When he delivers the presents, he of course has to see where he flies; but just as we cannot see legendary matter, anyone made of legendary matter cannot see anything made of normal matter. Thus Santa uses a quite weak conversion field to shift himself and his sleight just a little bit into the ordinary matter regime, not enough that the ordinary matter would hinder his flight, but enough that he could interact with light, and thus see where he would go. A side effect is that he also gets visible to us.

    There are also occasions where he temporarily shifts himself completely to ordinary matter; mostly in order to drink some milk and eat some cookies.

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    $\begingroup$ Legendary Matter? Unobtainium is real my friend... no legend... There's even a documentary about it. $\endgroup$ – WernerCD Dec 22 '15 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ Nice. Legendary matter with what sounds like phase-shifting would explain a lot. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 23 '15 at 0:55
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Assuming that Santa travels at the speed of light or faster to reach each home this would be problematic. Which with as many starts and stops needed would play heck on whiplash (or corporeal retention!). Even just one acceleration to half the speed of light in say seconds, would likely cause an x-ray burst and the complete disassociation of his particles.

So instead of going ultra fast, Santa plays with time. He makes Christmas/eve 364 days long from his perspective, so his deer can fly at much more reasonable speeds allowing him a little time to snack on cookies and milk between stops, feed the deer and run back to the north pole periodically to get the next batch of presents needing to be delivered. Of course to any observing, it appears that Santa is nothing more than maybe a flash of red out of the corner of the eye. Or maybe a jiggle is heard when the radio is off.

I could also see, Santa actually having several sleighs, Elves filling each one up depending on location to be visited, and when he comes home, hitch the deer up to the next sled and off you go again! Even their each one will have to have space warping abilities, since piling all the gifts for even 1 small town could fill a semi-trailer or two.

Come to think of it, the gift sack is much more likely to be a space warping device, that allows Santa to reach in all the way to the work shop to get the right gift for each, a little 'rift' exists in the sack, kind of like Nakor and his oranges!

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  • $\begingroup$ Terry Pratchett uses this time thing for an exceptionally similar figure in "The Hogfather." $\endgroup$ – PipperChip Dec 22 '15 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @PipperChip I haven't read that one yet! $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Dec 22 '15 at 18:41
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I would expect the technology to consist of a very small self-contained antimatter reactor, with a warp drive similar to the Alcubierre concept or the warp drive from Star Trek. Warp drive operates by moving the space surrounding the vessel so that the vessel is dragged along with it. An extremely fast warp drive could carry the sleigh near every house within a time zone within the hour and then to the next, and presumably there would be no strain on any component of the vehicle. Also, relativity would be a nonissue since the vehicle would remain at negligible speed and within normal space. A rigid system of reins could support the reindeer unharmed, though they'll be nervous unless they've been trained. The reactor could be contained with an energy shield and a spare or several could be carried in the back, and the gifts could be simply constructed with a replicator like in Star Trek and then beamed in with a transporter (also Star Trek.) Advanced holography would leave any tracks and provide something to consume and dispose of the milk and cookies and leave the occasional ashen footprint or sleigh track. Presumably the sleigh itself would be made of some sort of steel or titanium alloy, since if a warp drive is used, weight isn't a concern.

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Speed of travel is completely irrelevant ironically...

Clearly, Santa is a mutant.

He has many names...err powers but the powers relevant to his gift giving gig are as follows:

  1. Teleportation: Santa is able to teleport to any location on the globe, the teleportation may include other physical objects he is in contact with.

  2. Replication: Santa is able to replicate multiple physical copies of himself. These are not separate 'persons' merely extensions of Santa's all powerful will. The teleportation power is retained by the replicant Santas.

  3. Psychic: The actual Santa spends his annual Christmas gift giving extravaganza in silent meditation in a large dome at the north pole controlling the mentally linked avatars as they travel the globe delivering gifts to little ingrates.

History

The sleigh and reindeer are remnants from a time long past when Santa did things on his own in the more traditional manner. When Christmas was a small event in a fairly geographically localized area he did in fact fly around and drop off presents via a genetically modified elk powered sleigh. Over time as things grew Santa learned to hone his powers and he was able to skip the travel time altogether, but humanity had become so entranced with the myth of the sleigh with silver bells and reindeer that to this day he keeps up the charade by providing each of his avatars with reindeer and sleighs. Rumor has it the fleet of sleighs numbers in the thousands.

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It is not as hard as is sounds. There are some facts that very few people know, which make it a lot of easier.

First of the facts is that Santa lives, not in the North Pole, but in Korvatunturi, Finland. The common misunderstanding is because Santa Travels over the North Pole on his way to America. Why? Check a globe to find out

Why has the Santa chosen to live in Korvaturi? It is on the east border of Finland. To the east is Russia, where Santa actually does not visit. It is a territory of Ded Moroz, who delivers presents to children on New Years eve (check Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ded_Moroz). Santa and Ded have had this arrangement for centuries, for obvious practical reasons.

So Santa only has to travel towards west. Due to direction earth spins, this gives him considerably more time. Always when crossing a timezone he gets another hour 'extra'.

Secondly, in Finland as well as in most European countries, Santa delivers presents personally as he visits the houses early in the evening at Christmas Eve. He then arrives to the North America in the night and has all the time until the next morning to deliver the presents.

To sum up:

  • Santa has divided workload with Ded and hence has a lot less of the area to cover.

  • He travels towards west, giving him more time.

  • He visits different countries at different time.

In addition, Santa is known to use something called 'Magic', of which very little is known outside Korvatunturi.

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According to Norad, Santa's sleigh's max speed is "faster than starlight." Additionally, we know that despite being rather aged, he is still athletic and has not died yet.

"Faster than starlight", eh? You know what that means? Time Travel. Backwards to be specific.

So here is how Santa does it. He delivers as many of the presents as he can. Then, at the end of Christmas, he starts going faster than starlight, and go backs and delivers more presents. At the beginning of Christmas, he slows down and starts going forward in time again to deliver presents. He just zips forward and backwards through time. This would take an extremely long time, but given that he can not die from old age and is supplied with free meals of milk and cookies (you can survive on just milk by the way), he could do it.

Of course, to prevent causal paradoxes, Santa would have to be a logistical and temporal genius. The rest of the year though, he watches literally everyone though, so I would not put it beyond his mental capacity.

Really, this is the only possible solution. Why would Santa's sleigh go faster than starlight anyway, if that automatically implies time travel?

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