Wednesday, December 17, 2014

You Know, That Christmas Poem

Okay, so my comic up until Christmas Eve is clearly a parody of "A Visit from St. Nicholas." You may know it better as "The Night Before Christmas", which is not actually its title but part of the first line.

This classic poem, written by Clement Clarke Moore way back in 1823, is largely responsible for our modern ideas about Santa Claus. My poem will most likely have no cultural impact whatsoever. But it is a chance for us all to think for a few minutes about the level of effort required for Santa's operation to make it on time every year. To meet his requirements, Santa can't be up there in his workshop hand-assembling dolls. He needs to be an expert at managing a production line of impossible size, and use the most advanced techniques for both planning and execution. Knowing the current wakefulness state of every child on earth, their position on the naughty/nice scale, and their desired gift list at any moment is clearly a monumental achievement of data science that is the envy of everyone from Google to the NSA.

And we haven't even gotten to the whole delivery phase of the operation yet. Amazon can experiment with flying delivery drones all they want, but only Santa Claus has a team of flying reindeer out delivering packages at speeds which imply some sort of controlled distortion of space-time.

There's no company on earth that wouldn't like to send someone to Santa for training - he's clearly mastered things that the rest of us don't even know exist yet.

I'm not the only one considering things of this nature. As part of your Christmas preparations this year, be sure to read Are Santa’s Reindeer Used for Propulsion or Navigation?, in which an MIT graduate student delves into the interesting question using Moore's original poem as evidence.

Amphibian.com comic for 17 December 2014