Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson is famous for explaining things that everyone is curious about, but that most scientists eschew. For example, earlier this year he announced he had discovered Superman’s home planet of Krypton. On Christmas Eve, Monday, he explained the science behind Santa Claus’ ability to deliver presents to everyone in one night.
It’s not as simple as traveling fast, though. As he explained to NPR (embedded) on Monday:
It turns out if you travel the speed of light, light can encircle the earth seven times in one second. Light is awesome.
Problem is, we all live within earth’s atmosphere, so if you could go that fast through the atmosphere, then you’ll just burn up. And I learned from speaking to an expert in comic book heroes that The Flash has atmospheric separators in front of him when he goes quickly from one place to another so that he does not burn up.
Now that’s interesting. The Flash, for those not aware, is the fastest man alive (in DC Comics’ universe, anyway). He’s been through many revisions, however, but in the Silver Age timeline, it was said that The Flash (and let’s not forget the The portion of his name) was able to survive super-speed travel because of an aura that surrounded him.
This was in contrast to Superman who was simply invulnerable (although later revisions of the Man of Steel made his invulnerability a result of an aura around each cell — once again, nothing is static in comics except ages).
To explain the trip without super-speed, Neil deGrasse Tyson said:
So I realized that what he really needs is that, what they have in that movie “Monsters, Inc.?” Do you remember that movie? It just manufactured doors. And the door in the “Monsters, Inc.” factory is the door of the childrens’ closet.
What “Monsters, Inc.” never told you is that they’re essentially wormholes. Because he has to keep telling people to look at the chimney and then he sneaks in another way. He creates a distraction.
Clever, of course. deGrasse Tyson fails to note, though, that the fact that there are different time zones also helps out Santa. He could — if moving fast enough — stay ahead of time, so to speak.
What about the legend of Rudolph? His red-nose is scientifically sound, said deGrasse Tyson.
So let’s presume that his nose actually radiated red light. Well, it turns out red light is ideal for getting through foggy, cloudy nights because red light penetrates through fog better than blue light.
So the fact that Rudolf had a red nose, that’s awesome.
Some random Santa facts from deGrasse Tyson’s Twitter feed:
- Random Santa Fact: Longitude lines border Time Zones. So at the North Pole, where all lines meet, clock time has no meaning. [Surely further aid in Santa’s global trip]
- Santa surely keeps track of how many hours pass & how long the Elf union allows them to work, but time of day has no meaning.
- When Earth’s oil runs out & price of other fuels rises then naughty children will thank Santa for giving them a lump-of-coal
- Random Santa Fact: Another casualty of global warming — as the poles melt, most would rather not see Santa in a bathing suit