Santa Claus is, as all good children know, a fat man dressed in red with a white beard, who drops presents down the chimneys at the stroke of midnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. However, certain scientists, who were no doubt bad children, have cast scorn on this idea, and performed a detailed proof which shows, they claim, that Santa does not exist.
The Scientist's Disproof
The scientists took a number of estimates about Santa, such as his weight, the number of good children, the size of the average present, the strength of Rudolph and the other flying reindeer, and so on. They put these together using basic physical theories of, for example, acceleration and wind resistance, and deduced that an entire team of several hundred reindeer needed for the task would be heated up by atmospheric resistance, and be vaporised in less than a twentieth of a second.
The conclusion of their findings was that if Santa ever did deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now - and it was a sad day for good children everywhere.
The Rise of the Santa Theories
This result was published some while ago, and the exact date has been lost in the mists of time, along with the exact wording used. Many now doubt that the original authors of the report were real scientists - but sadly we are in no position to judge. What we do know is that ever since that time people have been suggesting counter-arguments which show alleged holes in the reasoning. Other theories have been postulated to deal with other elements of the Santa Conundrum.
You can read some of these theories at the NORAD Tracks Santa site. A selection of some of those theories which have particularly appealed to h2g2 Researchers is given below.
The Love Theory
The Love Theory claims that Santa is an ethereal demi-god and the usual laws of physics are forced to look in the opposite direction when he's about. It is entirely feasible for Santa to travel at Mach 3000 with only 12 reindeer by using the mathematics of Love! Love is a strange quantity. This can be shown by the following example: if I have some amount of love and give most of it to my 'life partner', some to my relatives, and the rest to my dog and goldfish. How much love have I left? Well I've actually gained much more love by giving some away. If X equals some amount of love then X - X = eX.
Santa is of course an avatar of love, so he can make much use of this exponential love gain. However, the same effect can be seen in your day to day life - if you take good care of your car, feeding it good petrol, keeping its oil and water topped up, and so forth, then it will go much faster. Love theorists believe that this effect is due not to physical factors, but because by doing so you show your car how much you love it, and it consequently speeds up.
Santa is further helped in his goal because every child in the world loves him. Bribery will get you a long way.
The 'No Good Children' Theory
Cynics often propose this theory. They claim that there are in fact no good children around any more, so Santa's workload is in fact minimal. The chances of any one child being good for an entire year are claimed to be so minimal as to be laughable. They appear to be supported in this by teachers, parents, and other grown-ups in authority.
This theory keeps Santa alive, but it might as well not do, because we still don't get any presents!
The Stretchy Santa Theory
The distance from the North Pole to the South Pole is around 18,000 kilometres. Each Christmas Day, so the theory goes, Santa stretches himself to 18,000 kilometres long, places his head at the North Pole, and his feet at the South Pole. He stays in that position, and the world rotates underneath him at the stroke of midnight. In this way, he can visit every household on earth.
Santa is well known for being overweight because of his mince pie diet, so we can estimate that Santa displaces1 about 0.3 cubic metres of space, including clothes and hat. Assuming Santa is cylindrical and that the curvature of the earth is trivial, he is calculated to be about 0.0206 centimetres across, or about three times the thickness of a human hair.
So, if you see something like a very thick hair pass overhead at midnight on Christmas Day, you'll know who it is.
The main problem for Santa, as we learn in poem and song form, is waking up sensitive young children who might be traumatised by the appearance of a strange fat red man in the house. Now, if Santa travelled by reindeer, he would lay down multiple sonic booms and keep the children awake. Hence, Santa must teleport - and even so, he's very busy.
The jingle bells, of course, are designed to cover up the 'pop' of out-rushing air when Santa teleports into the room, appearing at the base of the fireplace. The reindeer and sled is an elaborate ploy to fool the media.