Because it’s Christmas Eve, and because I haven’t blogged since Remembrance Day, I thought it high time that I jotted a little something down and put it here for all to see. Hang it on the web, with care, as it were.
One of the topics upon which I used to wax verbose in one of the previous incarnations of this blog was pop culture. And by pop culture, I mean superhero and science fiction television shows and movies.
My blog, my definitions.
On my way home from work today (after an early release. Yay!) I was thinking about how much I love Christmas and how much I love “pop culture” (see above definition), and it occured to me to wonder just how much Christmas there is in superhero and science fiction lore.
I can’t think of too many references, quite frankly. Maybe writers/creators/producers are trying to make the future more “ecumenical”. Or maybe there just isn’t much one can do with a holiday/yuletide theme in a futuristic or fantastical setting.
But lo, what sound is this? Is it the scratching of heads? The rubbing of chins? Or both? It would seem I set you up in that last paragraph. For how much more fantastical can one get than the notion of a bearded man in red in a flying sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and delivering presents to good little girls and boys all over the world in a single night?
I’ve read a number of hilarious pieces over the years inspired by this seemingly impossible task. My favorite is this one, apparently from the January 1990 issue of SPY magazine (I’m not one-hundred-percent positive on the attribution):
Scientific Inquiry into Santa Claus
- No known species of reindeer can fly. But there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not completely rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.
- There are two billion children (persons under eighteen) in the world. But since Santa doesn’t (apparently) handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to fifteen percent of the total: 378 million, according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes there’s at least one good child in each.
- Santa has thirty-one hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh, and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75,500,00 miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every thirty-one hours, plus feeding, etc.
This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second. A conventional reindeer can run, tops, fifteen miles per hour.
- The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that “flying reindeer” (see point #1) could pull ten times the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload—not even counting the weight of the sleigh—to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison, this is four times the weight of the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth II.
- 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A two-hundred-fifty-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.
In conclusion – If Santa ever did deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s dead now.
I hadn’t read this in a while, so decided to search and share.
Now, getting back to Christmas and science fiction, I can, off the top of my head, come up with only three references to Christmas.
- In 1999, DC comics produced an oversized softcover book entitled Superman: Peace on Earth by Alex Ross and Paul Dini. As with anything I’ve seen containing art by Alex Ross, it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s little hard to store without it getting it bent (because it’s so freakin’ tall), but it’s a beautiful book. The premise of the story is Superman trying to deal with the fact his help is not always appreciated.
- In the original Star Trek series episode “Dagger of the Mind” (season one, episode nine), there is very brief mention of Captain Kirk having met Dr. Helen Noel, the psychiatrist on board the Enterprise (and babe of the week, whom we never see again, by the way) at the crew Christmas party.
- In the movie Star Trek: Generations, Captain Picard is swept into the Nexus and finds himself in an idyllic, quasi-Victorian Christmas setting, complete with Christmas tree and idealized wife and kids in formal dinner dress. And his nephew, of course, who died tragically at the beginning of the film.
Of course, I’m being lazy here. Hence the “off the top of my head” declaration above. Plus, this allows me to have the fun of asking you, out there, gentle reader, to use the comments section below to fill in my monstrous lack of knowledge in this area.
Tell me what you know. What other Christmas references are out there in science fiction/superhero/fantasy/pop-culture land?
I’d really like to know.
And I’d really like to wish all of you a very merry Christmas, a joyous holiday season, and a happy New Year.