How does Santa travel the world in one night? Thank Einstein
Why the beloved genius might just be responsible for all those kids getting their presents.
"The interest in Einstein does not fade into history," says Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the Albert Einstein archives at Hebrew University, a school the genius helped establish. "If anything, if one can say anything about this, the interest in Einstein increases with time. It's greater now."
So it's fitting that we can close out the year with one more fun story related to everyone's favorite scientist.
On Christmas Eve kids around the world will go to bed, leaving sugar cookies out for Santa, and hope to wake up to a bounty of presents by the tree. But just how does Father Christmas deliver presents to millions of children in one night, slide his wide belly down the chimney and arrive without anyone seeing him? A physicist in Britain claims to have the answer, and it all has to do with Einstein.
Earlier this week, at the University of Exeter's Science of Christmas Festival, Dr. Katy Sheen revealed to those in attendance that she knew Santa's secret.
According to Sheen, Einstein's special theory of relativity can help explain a bunch of Christmas mysteries. First, when Santa travels at such lightning speed around the globe, Einstein's theory would posit that jolly ol' St. Nick actually shrinks, allowing him to fit down chimneys. Einstein can also help explain why Santa appears not to have aged throughout the millennia, because relativity can slow down clocks.
The British professor has also calculated that Santa and his sleigh would have to travel at about 6 million miles per hour to deliver presents to every child expected to celebrate Christmas in 31 hours (taking into account different world time zones). Traveling at that speed would make Santa appear like a brief blur – blink and you miss it. Which explains why we can't see him.
Sheen is not planning to present her research to a peer-reviewed journal for an academic audience. She had a different crowd in mind, and made the calculations to foster a love of science and physics in children.
"Visiting around 700 million children in 31 hours would mean he would have to travel at 10 million kilometres an hour if he is to deliver presents to every child," Sheen said. "How does Santa manage to reach these phenomenal speeds? Well that's magic! However, he would certainly need a lot of fuel – so don't forget his glass of sherry, a mince pie or two and some carrots for the reindeer!"
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Related Topics: Albert Einstein