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Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the science behind Santa’s visits

By Megan Carpentier
Monday, December 24, 2012 14:14 EDT
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On his Twitter account on Christmas Eve, Hayden Planetarium director and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson noted that, “at the North Pole, where all lines meet, clock time has no meaning,” adding, “Santa surely keeps track of how many hours pass & how long the Elf union allows them to work, but time of day has no meaning.”

It’s not the only scientific facts about Santa’s work that deGrasse Tyson pondered on Christmas Eve. Earlier in the day on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” he talked to host David Greene about the science behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s eponymous organ. “So let’s presume that his nose actually radiated red light,” deGrasse Tyson said. “Well, it turns out red light is ideal for getting through foggy, cloudy nights because red light penetrates through fog better than blue light.”

“So the fact that Rudolf had a red nose, that’s awesome,” he added.

As for Santa’s yearly ride, Tyson found himself somewhat puzzled.”It turns out if you travel the speed of light, light can encircle the earth seven times in one second,” he explained. “Light is awesome”

“Problem is,” he added, “we all live within earth’s atmosphere, so if you could go that fast through the atmosphere, then you’ll just burn up. And I learned from speaking to an expert in comic book heroes that The Flash has atmospheric separators in front of him when he goes quickly from one place to another so that he does not burn up.”

But he ended up with a different theory about Santa’s journey. “So I realized that what he really needs is that, what they have in that movie ‘Monsters, Inc.’? Do you remember that movie? It just manufactured doors. And the door in the ‘Monsters, Inc.’ factory is the door of the childrens’ closet.”

“What ‘Monsters, Inc.’ never told you is that they’re essentially wormholes,” deGrasse Tyson explained, noting that Santa’s sleigh ride and photo opps might all just be an elaborate ruse. “Because he has to keep telling people to look at the chimney and then he sneaks in another way. He creates a distraction.”

Listen to the full audio, courtesy of NPR, below:

[Image by NASA/Bill Ingalls via nasa hq on Flickr]

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
 
 
 
 
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