christmas friday diary

There’s the wonder and magic of Christmas.  Then there’s speculative.  The revolution continues.

While Christmas may have a rich place in the fantasy tradition, as Paradoxes has argued, there’s still plenty of room for SF.  Father Christmas may appear on the shadowy borders of the Perilous Realm, but he’s got gadgetry that 21st century man can only use in dream.

Intriguingly enough, the latest theorist regarding Santa’s use of robotic engineering is Jewish.  The JTA reports that Dr. Larry Silverberg, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NCSU, has conjectured theoretically possible technology for Santa’s flights.

Silverberg, apparently, just completed a six-month stint as a visiting scholar with ‘Santa’s Workshop-North Pole Labs (SW-NPL).’  In NCSU’s press release, Silverberg said that ‘we have a long way to go to catch up with Santa in fields ranging from aerodynamics and thermodynamics to materials science.’

Research at the SW-NPL concentrates on faster, more effective ways of making and delivering presents, Silverberg said.  ‘Efficiency is key, because a lot of the ongoing research at SW-NPL focuses on whether magic is a renewable resource.’  If it’s not, presumably there are problems.

Cold fusion, for instance, might not function correctly with a depleted magic supply.  Silverberg remained vague on what cold fusion is, but says it’s ‘a closely guarded secret’, and used to power the reindeer jet packs.  Not only does it power the eight + one duo through space, it seems to rip holes in time.

“Based on his advanced knowledge of the theory of relativity, Santa recognizes that time can be stretched like a rubber band, space can be squeezed like an orange and light can be bent,” Silverberg says. “Relativity clouds are controllable domains – rips in time – that allow him months to deliver presents while only a few minutes pass on Earth. The presents are truly delivered in a wink of an eye.”

Perhaps this is what Claus referred to during his interview with the South Bend Tribune.  When asked how he can managed to deliver all his toys in one night, he answered, ‘Time zones.’

Really, Mr. Claus?  Should rents in the fabric of space and time be called zones?

Holiday SF has a history.  Echo Press has reprinted a hundred year old article: ‘Christmas a Hundred Years From Now’.  It first ran 23 December 1909, and attempts to answer the question, what will Christmas be like in 2009?  It’s a wonder of prescience, and a reminder how the future has still failed to deliver.

After briefly reassuring readers that ‘Christmas a hundred years from now will be the same old Christmas,’ it speculates how an urbanized, highly technological society will celebrate the holiday.

It is probable that there will not be a wheeled vehicle of any kind on the streets of a great city on Christmas day, in the year 2009. Our tunnel system will have developed until the vast subterranean network of bores, chutes and pneumatic tubes will carry on the heavy traffic of the city without noise or confusion.

Preferred transport in 2009 is the ‘air car’.  ‘Men will use the earth as the birds do,’ the article said, ‘for a resting place for their homes and the principal source of food supply; but when they want to move from one place to another, they will mount into the ether, even as the birds do, and [fly] swiftly and safely to their destination.’

For those without a head for heights, there’s a nice solution: ‘The suburbanite who does not fly to work in 2009 will be shot through a pneumatic tube, traveling the five, ten or fifty miles of distance in a space of time that may be only a few seconds and certainly cannot be more than a few minutes.’

Don’t panic–the movement can’t be felt.  Tube-runners will travel in a ‘cushioned car, well lighted and warmed’.

A hundred years will only make Santa all the more real.  While department stores ‘could deliver [presents] through the pneumatic package tubes, which will go to all parts of the city, but it will be more poetic to have them delivered by Santa Claus.’  Thus, in this aeronautic 2009, ‘[on]Christmas eve a score or a hundred Santa clauses will set out from the various shops with their airships laden with Christmas gifts to be delivered at the various addresses.’

We have seen the future.  And it’s not that.

Find the real face.

We have also seen the real St. Nicholas.   As reported at Politics Daily, forensic anthropologists have reconstructed a true-to-life image of the historical Father Christmas.

The saint’s remains are kept at Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy, reports The St. Nicholas Center.  The University of Bari commissioned Dr. Caroline Wilkinson of the University of Manchester to recreated St. Nicholas’s face from sketches made of his skull in the 1950s.  Wilkinson employed the latest software to piece together the twenty-six facial muscles of the unique bone structure.

The result of the project is the image of a Greek man, living in Asia Minor (part of the Greek Byzantine Empire), about 60-years old, 5-feet 6-inches tall, who had a heavy jaw and a broken nose.

Unlike Dumbledore, the saint’s broken nose didn’t apparently come from a brawl, the report says.  Most likely, it’s a sign of the torture he suffered during Diocletian’s persecution of the church.

Science, history–meet wonder.  Welcome to Christmas.

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