PODCAST: Gregory Mone, "The Truth About Santa: Wormholes, Robots, and What Really Happens on Christmas Eve" [MP3]

The Truth About Santa author Gregory Mone speaks at Google's Boston headquarters

Plenty of authoritative geeks have weighed in on Christmas and its patron saint of gift-giving: According to Neil Gaiman, Santa Claus is a tortured soul who cannot die, a slave to the "dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns." The way Futurama sees it, Santa is a rogue robot conqueror who emerges from his death fortress on Neptune once a year to rain destruction upon the naughty.

But we all know that's pure fantasy ... and Gregory Mone agrees. And as a writer for Popular Science, Mone is only interested in fact. The Santa that you know and love -- the chipper red-cheeked fellow with the flying sleigh -- is as much a figment of the imagination as a Neptunian killbot. If Santa actually operated the way the Rankin-Bass Claymation specials say he does, his Christmas Eve journey alone would take him an estimated 1,500 years to carry out. Which is preposterous. Instead, Mone wants you to know: the real Santa uses wormholes.

"As anyone with a decent grasp of physics, biology, and material science understands, Santa's advertised abilities are perfectly plausible," Mone told us at his LSC-organized MIT lecture back in early November. "The trick is that he has at his disposal some of the most advanced equipment, devices, and means of transportation in this or any other universe. ... People think he's magic because they don't understand how his gadgets work."

At his talk, Mone powered through a dizzying synopsis of his new book, The Truth About Santa: Wormholes, Robots, and What Really Happens on Christmas Eve, for which he called up scientists and other field experts -- management consultants, Berkeley astrophysicists, Navy SEALs -- and grilled them about Santa Claus ops. His research suggests:

-Santa is not immortal, but retains his jolly vigor with the help of organ printers.

-Santa does not, in fact, leave toys under the tree; instead, he comes bearing complex chemical reactions -- toys assemble themselves in their packaging.

-Santa’s Christmas Eve rounds are actually accomplished via several teams of Santa-recruited lieutenants, a series of short-distance wormholes, and time travel.

-Santa’s base of operations (actually in Greenland, not the North Pole) is greatly threatened by global warming -- to keep his unfathomably large server farm cool, he needs the Arctic chill. Kris Kringle’s own green initiatives include planting trees and cloning his elves ("because he wouldn't want [them] breeding on their own").

The pleasure of an exercise like The Truth About Santa lives and dies by the nerdy details. In this 52-minute teaser blitzkrieg, however, Mone had to do a lot of skimming, so this lecture is about 70% lunatic conspiracy theory and 30% delicious science. But even if it's just the tip of an insane thought-experiment iceberg, this talk still shines in the little blips where the author describes how he got actual experts to, say, perform a cost-benefit analysis of Santa outsourcing his elfwork. Impressively, Mone did not drop his shtick for a single second. Hear it for yourself:

DOWNLOAD: Gregory Mone, “The Truth About Santa,” at MIT [MP3]

Recorded live at MIT on November 5, 2009, courtesy of MIT's Lecture Series Committee. To subscribe to this podcast, paste this RSS feed into your feed-reader of choice, or bookmark

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