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In Search of Schroedinger's Reindeer

  1. Dec 23, 2005 #1


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    Staff: Mentor

    This is a classic.


    Physics refutes this. From "New Scientist" December 1989:

    In Search of Schrodinger's Reindeer.

    With the festive season upon us, many scientific minds will yet again
    be attempting to solve that perennial chestnut, the Travelling Santa
    Problem (or TSP). This problem was first brought to our attention by
    the child prodigy, Vernon P. Templeman, in his seminal paper "Please
    may I have a bike for Christmas, Daddy" (J. Appl. Window Shopping,
    December 1988, vol 7, p 1-122).

    In simple terms, the problem boils down to one of speed. How can
    Father Christmas visit the homes of all the children in the world in a
    single night, albeit 24 hours long? Templeman demonstrated that the
    classical (sequential) explanation forces us to invoke
    faster-than-light travel, which is somewhat at odds with current

    Thus, he argued, we should infer that the Father Christmas effect does
    not really exist. This contentious hypothesis was the subject of much
    debate at a recent symposium held at the Santa Fe Institute for
    Present Research.

    Our initial thoughts were that Templeman had over-estimated the size
    of the problem, forgetting that Santa only visits good children. This
    would reduce the number of visits by a factor of order 10^9.

    However, a simple back-of-the-lab-coat calculation shows that this
    renders the problem no more tractable. This threw suspicion on the use
    of classical physics. At this stage, the teachings of our old mentor,
    Erwin Schroedinger, came back to us ("Famous people that we claim to
    have known, honest", by Matthew Davies and Martin Slaughter, Annals of
    Physics, 1983, vol 12, pp 379-381). From a detailed study of reported
    phenomena, it became apparent that Santa shared many of the
    characteristics of elementary particles, suggesting a quantum
    mechanical interpretation of his behaviour. We have since developed
    this theory, and are confident that a quantum mechanical model of
    Santa Claus allows many of his observed properties to be explained,
    and several interesting predictions to be made.

    Clearly, viewing Santa as a waveform removes the apparent paradox of
    his "presence" being measured in several locations within a short
    interval of time. As the waveform collapses down in a specific
    location (attracted, we suggest, by the Goodness Quantum number of
    the recumbent child) it becomes perfectly valid to state that a
    "visitation" has occurred.

    However, our calculations suggest that the process of measurement (for
    example, turning on the bedroom light) will almost certainly lead to a
    localised, space-time instability which, in turn, will cause the
    waveform to relax and render detection almost impossible.

    Once again, this ties in with the experimental evidence that Father
    Christmas is rarely caught delivering. Indeed, on those few occasions
    when a sighting has been claimed in the literature ("Mummy, mummy,
    there's a strange man in my bedroom" by S. T. U. Peedo, Journal of
    Sleepless Nights, 1979, vol 5, p 35), closer scrutiny has often
    revealed it to be an imposter wearing a red cloak and beard.

    Moreover, the quantum mechanical model predicts that energies involved
    in a waveform collapse will result in the emission of a jet of
    sub-atomic particles. Studies of bedroom carpets in the vicinity of
    alleged sightings, using an X-mass spectrometer, have often revealed
    evidence of mince pion activity; though these have usually been
    Hoovered up.

    One of the most appealing aspects of our theory is the manner in which
    it allows the most likely sites for visitation to be estimated. These
    may be identified from the first derivative of the expectation value

    d (Spot) |
    d (Fireplace) | night

    It turns out that the distribution of household chimneys is exactly
    that required to act as a diffraction grating for objects of Santa's
    predicted wavelengths, focusing the zeroth order onto the bedroom
    floor below ("Chimchimmeny, chimchinny, chimchin cheroo", by Bert,
    Mar. Popp. 1969).

    Yet another predication which agrees with commonly reported
    observations concerns the Christmas Stocking effect. Within
    the general theory, the stocking would be expected to act as an
    infinite potential well, momentarily capturing the Santa waveform.
    The resonance within the stocking is predicted to transfer energy from
    any batteries within the well (causing them to run out by Boxing Day)
    before collapsing back down to a new ground state characterised by
    a tangerine in the toe.

    Apart from the successes reported above, the theory makes a number of
    predictions about rather low probability events; that is, events
    expected to occur in fewer than one hundred homes in the world each
    year (for example, a full night's sleep for parents of under-8s; no
    clothes given as presents; fairy lights still working from last year).
    In order to collect the huge volume of data needed to assess these
    rare events, we have decided to appeal to the scientific community for

    Well as the few observations available fit the theory, a detailed
    experiment to provide quantltatlve.support is now necessary. This
    will require a vast amount of data to be collected with observations
    from as many global locations as possible.

    New Scientist's readers are, therefore, asked to maintain a Yule log
    of the events in their domestic laboratories and to send their
    results to the authors via the magazine.

    Participants are requested to make a note of thefollowing:

    (1) Their children's Goodness Quantum number;
    (2) The approximate dimensions of their bedroom;
    (3) Whether Santa visits and, if so, at what time;
    (4) Their address and galactic bspace coordinates (or postcode);
    (5) Any evidence of Charm or Strangeness;
    (6) Whether Santa is seen to be spinning (needed to check the "No L"
    (7) The number of presents left;
    (8) The colour of his reindeer's nose (often quoted as red when seen
    moving away at speed, but unknown in its rest frame).

    On a note of caution, participants are urged not to try to localise
    Santa as the delta p. delta x equals or is greater than h
    relationship suggests that the energies involved could demolish a
    timber frame building.

    At a time when Europe is leading the world in fundamental physics
    research we hope that this knotty problem can be resolved with this
    experiment. The Americans are not far behind, with Senate
    approval for the $12 trillion Turkey/ Anti-Turkey Synchronous
    Santatron. Let us make sure we cook their goose before
    they foil our efforts.

    Matthew Davies and Martin Slaughter are physicists
    working in the computer industry.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 23, 2005 #2
    A sad day it will be when little-Bobby-physics-genius is told by his parents:

    "Since you're 10 years old now, it's time mom and dad tell you the truth. It turns out the Santa-visitation operator isn't Hermitian. I'm sorry, Bobby, but Santa was just a figment of your imagination."
  4. Dec 24, 2005 #3


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The truth is always hard.
  5. Dec 24, 2005 #4
    Hm. Well I thought it was funny.
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