Wednesday 7 December 2016

SECRETS OF THE 21st CENTURY SANTA...

Published 21/12/2011 | 06:00

We all think we know Santa Claus: fat, jolly, avuncular. Lives in a cosy home in the North Pole, with the missus and a pack of elves...

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Well, forget what you know. Because as it turns out, parents, salespeople, movies, the media and maybe even Santa himself have been peddling a ridiculous centuries-old myth.

Yes, he's real. Very real. But Mr Claus has no magical powers. The truth is he's a very clever man, who's been dabbling in technology and has found myriad ways to make his seemingly impossible job possible.

That's according to a very unusual 'biography', in which author Gregory Mone uses science to overturn the assumption that Santa can't be real.

Drawing on the work of accomplished scientists and researchers, Mone -- who is a contributing editor at Popular Science magazine -- gives us a whole new portrait of this remarkable man and the miracles he makes happen every year, and comes to the conclusion that it's science, not magic, that keeps Santa up to speed on Christmas Eve.

The Truth About Santa is a fantastically illustrated and affectionate read that makes a tongue-in-cheek yet compelling case for the scientific possibility that Santa really exists.

Of course he doesn't possess mystical powers that enable him to squeeze his colossal frame down hundreds of millions of chimneys, nor does he circumnavigate the planet on a single night trailing behind a team of flying reindeer.

Instead, Santa has a range of devices that space agencies could only dream of possessing.

Forget the reindeer-drawn sleigh. Santa travels via wormhole, special tunnels through spacetime, which have baffled the world's top physicists, but which Santa has been using for years. The major benefit of wormholes is that they cut his travel time from one home to the next to zero.

Each wormhole has two mouths, and Santa's vast network of elfish engineers has linked hundreds of millions of living rooms and flats through these astrophysical wonders.

Consequently, Santa can enter one house via the exit mouth of one wormhole, distribute the gifts, depart through the entrance to a second wormhole and make it into the next residence in less than a minute.

Once inside a house, Santa goes to great lengths to ensure nobody sees or disturbs him. If a child starts creeping down the hallway as he's dropping off the presents, the footfall will be detected by motion sensors he has planted in the Christmas tree decorations.

Even the angel at the top of the tree isn't as angelic as she looks, bearing a complex array of microphones that can triangulate the position of an approaching inhabitant, as well as the size of the person.

In the unlikely event that he is disturbed, Santa can rely on his suit, which is made of metamaterials.

Leading scientists have developed metamaterials that can bend certain wavelengths of light around an object, which effectively makes it invisible.

Naturally, though, Santa's suit works across the entire visible spectrum, meaning when the metamaterials in his outfit are activated, he disappears.

Of course, Santa isn't just busy on Christmas Eve. Months before his big day out, he faces the mammoth task of deciding what gifts to leave and which children deserve them.

But how can Santa know who's been naughty and nice? Simple, when you've got futuristic gadgets at your disposal, like he does.

He is able to spy on all the world's kids with his army of flying robotic surveillance drones, which hover over schoolyards, peer into family rooms and listen in as family members scream at one another or children misbehave.

Just like the Christmas tree decorations, the drones transmit raw data they capture back to the North Pole, where state-of-the-art video analysis software picks out potential transgressions. The clips are then reviewed by Santa's tireless elves, who mark the party in question 'naughty' or 'nice'.

Santa even takes measures not to double up the presents he drops off by using a scanner to identify the gifts that parents and relatives have already put under the Christmas tree. Santa then cross-references with each child's wish list to determine which presents the child has not received.

And forget about Santa's elves toiling away all year making toys for all the world's children. No need for that wasted labour, as Santa doesn't actually bring any toys with him.

Instead he determines which item he should leave, then places a gift-wrapped box on the floor and activates it via remote control. Inside, within a fluid-filled chamber, the toy self-assembles from molecular components. The self-assembly device can replicate nearly any toy and once finished, the fluid leaks out and evaporates without trace.

And how has Santa lived for so long? Luckily for Santa, the North Pole's robotic surgeons regularly replace his organs with artificially-grown, healthy substitutes to counteract the effects of his dreadful diet.

That sounds like something most of us could do with this Christmas.

The Truth About Santa, published by Bloomsbury, is available in bookshops nationwide. It costs €10.66.

Irish Independent

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