"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." –Arthur C. Clarke
Santa has become an icon of generosity and goodwill, but he can offer us much more than presents. From accurately delivering presents to millions of children, to creating a sleigh capable of moving at extraordinary speeds, Santa and his incredible feats are an inspiration to engineers and scientists the world over.
We had our scientists take a deeper look into the magic of Santa, and ask, what if?
There's eyewitness testimony that in the early 1800s Santa's clothes became "all tarnished with ashes and soot" after descending a chimney. However, as we approached the 21st century, it appears that Santa began using technology that allowed him to slide down even the narrowest chimney without dirtying his signature red velvet and white fur clothes. To this day, it's kept his suit pristine.
We’re not sure how he does it, but the most effective approach we know blocks stains on the delicate fabric fibers it's applied to, protecting them from dirt. Santa's spotlessness is a worthy goal as we experiment with new ways to help keep the world clean.
But it's not just about looking good.
For instance, how do Santa's reindeer find the energy to fly all across the world in one night? We believe Santa's reindeer might not be so different from many little kids: a diet extremely dense in energy-rich carbohydrates sends them flying.
Santa's elves must use a special process to purify the reindeer’s diet of candy canes, frosted cookies, and chocolate fudge. Like the elves, we're experimenting with purification methods in our own applications—not just in the world of food but practically anywhere that needs filtration, from homes to factories.
Santa's reindeer fly fast—and when you're moving that fast, the snow and ice your sleigh encounters in flight can hit pretty hard. So how does Santa's sleigh stay in one piece as it's flying through this blizzard?
The current theory is that Santa's method works a little like our advanced composite protection, that integrates into the surface and helps protect composite materials through all kinds of weather.
Santa's got millions of presents to deliver—but he's got requests coming in until the last minute, and naughtiness and niceness to consider. That can be stressful enough for parents looking after their own kids. With the entire world waiting, Santa's manufacturing process has to be able to turn on a dime.
We're used to helping people manufacture things like cars more efficiently (PDF, 559.35 KB) with materials that are easier to use. And we also help our own teams work more creatively by giving them the time to do what they love. Even with all that expertise, we still aren’t sure exactly how Santa sorts those millions of gifts—but we’re working on it.
We're all fascinated by incredible things we simply may not understand. That's one of the reasons we love Santa so much. But just because we don't understand something today doesn't mean we can't understand it tomorrow.
There's one thing we can all learn from Santa that we've taken to heart: the work most worth doing is the work that makes life better, around the world. That's something Santa achieves every year, and one we strive for every day.