A Specially Christmassy Christmas SpecialWe are rapidly approaching the time of year when visions of dancing sugar-plums (whatever they are) are driven from children’s heads by more serious concerns of lift, drag, acceleration, weight-to-power ratios, and the physics of Santa and the sleigh and Redolf the Rude Nosed Reindeer1 and all that company.
Sadly I must now disabuse the imaginative little tykes of one of the traditional first principles of their calculations. You see…
You see, the idea of Santa and his flying reindeer is patently absurd.
No members of the Cervidae have aerodynamic propensities, and Rangifer tarandus is not an exception.
The misapprehension is, of course, based in part on a mishearing. It isn't Santa and his flying reindeer with an 'L', no, it is Santa and his frying reindeer with an 'R': chicken-fried reindeer being a delicacy in the deep south of those far northern reaches. This, I'm sure, is well known to you all.
But there is a much more serious, indeed a deadly dangerous, origin for the error. It has not hitherto been acknowledged in public that this common fallacy is also based in part on an incident some time in the mid nineteen fifties, though one associated with Thanksgiving rather than with Christmas. One Thanksgiving Santa unfortunately tried deep frying his reindeer without defrosting it first: the resulting explosion propelling a ballistic reindeer hundreds of miles into the air. Seeing this hot object hurtling from over the Pole at the height of the cold war, briefly raised DEFCON to level zero (which as you all know, lies somewhere between "Where is John Connor and his tame Terminator when you need them?" and a message to cockroaches everywhere to evolve into something with more intelligence and preferably fewer legs and less skittering (Eyeeeeeew!)). This also explains why NORAD has, for these many years, broadcast, completely unencrypted, Santa's progress round the world each Christmas Eve. It’s a rare example of someone actually learning from history, and so not having to go to all the bother of repeating it.
The impossibility of flying reindeer of course immediately raises the question of what Santa's actual mode of propulsion is, and I can now, after years of research into the arcana of Santology, answer this definitively.
But first some background: of course a lot of nonsense has been written, often, indeed, peer reviewed papers in leading scientific journals, let alone the popular press, about Santa and for example that notorious expanded version of Euler’s Seven Bridges of Königsberg, the so-called Santa Delivery Route Problem, or about his use of infra-red navigational aids by the lead reindeer. But all of this is, as I say, nonsense because it's all based on that basic misunderstanding of the nature of the beast, or beasts, that Santa uses, so that all the models and the statistics and the hours of computer simulation time are wasted, and all of it misses the real answer because the answer is...in reality...
It is the emu.
That's right emu, eight emu. Santa and his eight flying Emu. And now it all finally makes sense.
Now through my research I have finally and conclusively proved that these large, supposedly flightless bumblebees, when fed a diet consisting exclusively of beans, bran and brandy easily provide the requisite thrust, readily reaching the barely subluminal velocities Santa needs and at which their stubby wings become an aerodynamic advantage.
Now, with any luck, those children can quickly complete their calculations, base them on my more accurate data, taking into account the use of time zones, the advantages of starting from the International Date Line, Time Dilation as Santa approaches the speed of light, the actual nature of Santa's list and its relationship to the calculus of morality, and we hope quickly get back to all that the sugar-plum dancing stuff in their heads.
Now if only Santa can find a source of decent country gravy to go with his Chicken Fried Reindeer we could (like the Jolly Green Giant) say "Ho! Ho! Ho!" to you all and a seasonal...
Cheerio for now
1 Redolf the rude-nosed reindeer*
Had a very naughty nose,
And if you ever saw it
You would blush down to your toes.
All of the other reindeer
Teased till he broke out in hives,
They wouldn’t let poor Redolf
Anywhere near their reindeer wives!
Then one censorious Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
“Redolf, with your nose so rude,
“Won’t you shock this dreadful Prude?”
Then all the reindeer tolerated him,
And they shouted “Out with Glee!
“We don’t think that programme
“Should be on Reindeer TV!!”**
* Thank goodness we don't have a picture‡.
** They were very opinionated and couldn’t stick to the subject—bit like me, really.
‡ Though it now appears that one has appeared. Luckily the naughty bits have been redacted!
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