The Physics of How Santa's Reindeer Fly Each Christmas

First Posted: Dec 22, 2015 01:02 PM EST

Everyone knows about the story of Santa's reindeer and their important job each Christmas. Every year, these animals leap into the air with Santa's sleigh, flying around the world to help him deliver presents. But what goes into actually pulling the sleigh? It's not all magic; it's also a little bit of physics.

First of all, we have to assume that Santa's reindeer aren't actually magic. And while having wings could be a possibility, none of our current information about Santa's reindeer would explain this type of mutation. Normal reindeer have the ability to jump--and jump far. Could it be that instead of flying, Santa's reindeer are actually jumping?

Reindeer are actually domesticated caribou. The females weigh about 220 pounds on average, while adult males weigh a bit over 260 pounds. Standing about four feet high at the shoulder, the reindeer that Santa uses are probably from the Norweigian archipelago of Svalbard.

If the reindeer jumped, though, they'd wind up putting a hole through the roof of your house.  Reindeer would have to exert enough force to jump high into the air (let's say about 400 feet). They'd be working against the force of gravity while doing so. Let's assume that we have a reindeer that weighs 220 pounds and then add on another 100 pounds per reindeer to cope with the extra weight of the sled (and Santa). That'd be 320 pounds of reindeer and sled that needed to be lifted--not to mention all of the presents. The necessary force that would be required to work against the force of gravity and propel the reindeer and sled into the air would actually cause the roof beneath the reindeer to crack beneath. That's sure to wake you up at night.

Obviously, jumping isn't the answer. But how do reindeer actually fly? We've already ruled out wings, but what about something similar to what Superman uses? It's possible that the reindeer could emit some kind of particles in order to stay aloft, and that these particles are moving at fast enough speeds to accomplish this. Obviously, ordinary reindeer don't have this ability--so what could be causing Santa's reindeer to do this?

The answer is, of course, technology. It may be possible that the reindeer are equipped with special harnesses that can be "switched" to accelerate particles below them to such an extent to propel them into the air. This particular technology would also have to be equipped to Santa's sleigh (where, presumably, the control panel for this particular technology is located).

Of course, these particles would have to be accelerated to incredible speeds to accomplish this task, and current particle accelerators, while shrinking, are still too large. So what about another kind of technology?

It could have something to do with negative mass. Negative mass is a hypothetical state of matter in which all of the properties of a particle are the same, except their reaction to certain forces. A push on negative mass would cause it to go flying in the opposite direction. It may be possible that the reindeer can turn their mass into negative mass to propel them into the air. For example, if there was a type of negative mass field connected to the reindeer's skin, they would be propelled forward by air pressure. And if there was the ability to turn the air molecules around the reindeer to negative mass, then they would be propelled upward. This particular technology would also be linked to the harnesses and sled.

Assuming this technology is being used, then why incorporate the reindeer in the first place? It could be that the reindeer use fine-tuned movements to guide the sleigh in a way that artificial intelligence can't replicate. And while AI has improved, it's possible that Santa keeps his reindeer out of tradition, if nothing else.

So how do Santa's reindeer fly? It seems like it must have to do with particles. Of course, a little Christmas spirit also never hurt.

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