Santa's STEM

One of the most popular people this time of year is Santa Claus. This intrepid reporter was thrilled to get an interview with him and tell you about Santa's STEM--his Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (what did you think I meant by his STEM?).

First of all, Mr. Claus, what can you tell readers about your world headquarters?

Our world headquarters is closely entwined with our science; we have many scientists in our organization. We have a large wonderful facility located at near Earth's North Pole--I can't tell you exactly where it is for security reasons. Our scientists tell me the North Pole is the point on Earth where our planet's magnetic field points vertically downwards. Our location has some unique characteristics. For one thing, it is now polar night. We don't really get much sunlight this time of your because of the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth away from the sun. But to make up for the darkness we get to experience the beautiful Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. Auroras form when electrons and ions from the sun collide with the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere. Watching the beautiful curtains of red and green light is one of my favorite activities.

What other expertise do your scientists have?

Another thing our scientists study is snow. Snow is precipitation in the form of crystalline (solid) water and we have an awful lot of it at the North Pole! Earth's atmosphere contains invisible gaseous water (humidity) and liquid water in clouds. It turns out the air in the atmosphere also contains little particles of solid stuff like ice, dust, smoke, and even bacteria. When a teeny-tiny particle of water in a cloud smacks into one of these cloud condensation nuclei, it sticks. Gradually other water drops smack into it and form a bigger drop of water. Eventually, the big drops of water are just too big and heavy and so the force of gravity makes them fall. We call this falling water precipitation. Whether it falls as rain, snow, hail, drizzle or one of the other kinds of precipitation depends on the temperature of the air. Obviously to get snow, the air temperature needs to be cold. Lucky for us at the North Pole, the air temperature is cold, so we get a lot of snow. This means we get to have a lot of snow ball fights and build snow forts and go cross-country skiing and sledding and all kinds of other fun stuff.

Please tell us about your technology.

We have a proprietary technology system developed by our talented personnel. It's based on magnanimity, appreciation, gentleness, insight and compassion, and we call it magic. Magic enables us to design and build approximately one billion toys per year. An employee who is particularly adept at using magic is called an extraordinary life force, or elf. Elves are crucial to our operation and, in fact, the vast majority of our employees are elves.

I myself am an elf and utilize magic to imbue my sleigh and reindeer with an anti-gravity force, which enables them to fly through the air. Human scientists have yet to fully understand this anti-gravity force, but it's related to what you call dark matter.

I also utilize magic to stretch out time so I can travel around the world in one night. Similarly, magic enables me to modify my spatial dimensions, so I can travel down confined spaces like chimneys. Thus, our magic operates a lot like the theory of special relativity.

Can you explain that a little more?

Sure. Special relativity was discovered by a human named Albert Einstein. (He actually had a little elvish DNA.) Old Albert discovered the time lapse between two events depends on the relative speeds of the observers; he called this time dilation. Similarly, the length of an object depends on the relative speeds of the observers; he called this length contraction.

I make good use of both of these concepts on Christmas Eve. I couldn't complete my mission without them.

Tell us about your engineering and mathematics.

Of course our engineering enables us to create magic, and our mathematics is the basis of it. As the more common human computer systems are binary, based on ones and zeros, we also have a binary system, based on naughty and nice. Suffice it to say, we need a lot of nice energy to charge up our workshop and all the rest of our projects. So, it does help us out when humans are kind and generous to one another.

Thanks for your time, Sir.

You're welcome.

So, you heard it here, first: Mr. Claus wants us to be kind and generous to one another. Let's not let him down!

May your holidays be filled with magnanimity, appreciation, gentleness, insight and compassion.

And may your heart be filled with the magic of the season.

About Dr. Lesley L. Smith

Lesley L. Smith, Ph.D. has earned a plethora of degrees, including a M.S. and a Ph.D. in Elementary Particle Physics. In 2012, she added to her collection by completing her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. Dr. Smith’s short science fiction has been published in several venues, such as "Analog Science Fiction and Fact," "Daily Science Fiction," and Nano Meets Macro. She is an active member of the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW), and is also the founder and editor of Electric Spec.

Dr. Smith has held a variety of scientific jobs, including investigating quarks, dark matter, extrasolar planets, clouds, atmospheric chemistry, and global warming. She has worked for a variety of research institutions, while her nonfiction articles have been published in venues that include the Physical Review and Modern Physics Letters. She is a long-time member of the The American Physical Society (APS) and The American Geophysical Union (AGU). For more information, connect with Dr. Smith on her website The Quantum Cop is now available on Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.

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