Ask Hackaday: Prove Santa Exists

There is no question, that Santa Claus exists. He’s real, with the sleigh, the beard, and the reindeer and everything. He distributes gifts to billions of children in an evening, squeezes down a billion chimneys without getting that stylish red outfit dirty, and gets back home to the North Pole before sunrise. What more proof do you need, after all the missile defence folks track his progress over the icy wastes every Christmas Eve!

Well, the previous paragraph is the story you’ll get from the average youngster in countries where St. Nick is a cultural fixture, and who are we to disabuse them of this notion. Certainly not [Dave Barrett], who has the task of coming up with some ideas for a Santa Proof Of Existence for a kids’ Christmas party. In a previous year he’s thrilled them with a view of the sleigh taking off (in reality a remote-controlled model rocket launch complete with fake air traffic control clearance for Santa via CB radio), but this year the party isn’t somewhere with the space to do that trick. Instead he has the task of maintaining the illusion in those young minds for another year, with only a modest suburban plot in which to do it.

How would you prove Santa’s existence for the credulous young party-goers, using the finest technological marvels available to the Hackaday community? Perhaps you might create the illusion of boots crunching in the snow outside, or maybe the not-so-distant sound of reindeer. We suggest a Santa-Pede won’t cut it, and neither will hiring the beardy member of your hackspace as a stand-in. Kids aren’t that stupid!

What do you think? Go nuts in the comments.

Santa image: Jonathan Lindberg [Public domain].

63 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: Prove Santa Exists

  1. Id go webcam on a studio set of the workshop. Laptop cameras both ways, and really good santa. Some BS on secret login, crappy internet connection and call out participants by name or clothing worn. Good up until 9 or 10 years old.

  2. When I was a kid, my parents would make footprins coming out of the fireplace with my dads boots and fireplace ashes. One year we set up a hidden camaera, a camera wrapped up like a present with a hole for the lense set for a timer for like 12:04, to take a picture of santa. When I got the photo back, it had Santa “photoshopped” in front of our mantle. While this wouldn’t be difficult at all now, this was back in the 90s and it was a on a film camera. They later said they had a friend from work do it. It pretty well done and didn’t really look like obvious photoshop in any way. No idea how it was actually pulled off

    1. The whole beauty of xmas is that it teaches kids that yes the whole world CAN be part of a lie.
      That way they can, if they possess a certain minimal intelligence, draw the obvious conclusion about religion later on. And prep them to realize things about politics and media too you would hope.

  3. Really terrible title for a science-loving blog.

    You should challenge the children to prove he doesn’t exist, meanwhile providing very compelling evidence to the contrary. Think less “fairytale” and more “magic show”. That’s a much better way to teach than to imply that lies are true and completely ruin their trust in adults.

    1. I agree. It also set the precedent in young people’s minds that ignoring facts, science and logic is ok, as is blatantly lying, if it’s for the right reason. This is not the case. That’s how we got religion, and even worse, fox news.

        1. For real. Did anyone here have their trust in adults “completely ruined” when they found out? No? Me either. Even as a child, I understood we were talking about this one thing and not all things ever. Kids aren’t idiots or fragile eggs, and this isn’t a lie so much as it is a game you’re playing with your kids. It’s an illusion for fun. If one’s view of the world is strongly tempered by a story one was told as a kid, then perhaps that person has deeper issues. In the meantime, I would recommend avoiding they avoid any form of fiction.

      1. Every bit of our technology has come from fantasy and fits of imagination where the mind wanders across thousands of ludicrous possibilities to find the few that may work. If you don’t have the time to consider such foolishness you’ll never discover a thing. Worse would be you putting someone else down for their silly belief that heavier than air flight can be possible.

        So Yes! There is a Santa! And an Easter Bunny… Tooth Fairy too! Killing off such silly imaginings may be why we never get around to finally positively proving global warming and saving the planet… Free thought stifled and strangled. Let every imagination roam free!

        1. “Every bit of our technology has come from fantasy” Double-plus! A lot of folks underestimate the creativity that goes with building new things. And creativity comes from saying “what if” and suppressing your inner naysayer until you can get it working.

          Heck, the founding tenet of Hackaday is that it’s fun to do ridiculous and imaginative things with technology.

          Have fun, y’all!

    2. “That’s a much better way to teach than to imply that lies are true and completely ruin their trust in adults.”

      That’s a very strong claim, I doubt you can support it. The fact is that being credulous of whatever an authority tells you is anti-scientific and in general poor knowledge hygiene.

      You’re going to have a hard time convincing me that ruining “trust” in data presented by adults is something bad!

      You’ll also have a hard time convincing me that “fairytales” are “lies,” or that make-believe is somehow harmful to children. These are exceptionally wild claims that would call for extensive study, but I suspect the results of studies say something very different; that play and imagination and make-believe makes children better able to process new and unfamiliar information, and that trust is based on outcomes rather than process.

  4. I did explore the possibility of someone visiting each inhabited point on the planet within a single “night”, back in 2006.

    Thus, 360 degrees of longitude must be covered in 54 hours. Division of these figures gives us the exact length of time one can spend at any degree of longitude. It works out that an individual has 9 minutes to cover each degree of longitude. There are 180 degrees of latitude that must be covered in that 9 minutes, thus one could spend no longer than 3 seconds at any given point on the globe.

    That’s not a lot of time to stop, locate a point of entry, enter, perform the delivery, exit, then depart… all without damaging goods or getting detected.

    1. You’re forgetting that according to the FAO, only 0.6% of the Earth’s surface is “artifical surface”, aka. built up areas which includes areas where people don’t live, such as asphalt roads. Anyways, that figure gives Santa an ample 500 seconds at every point where people -might- live.

      1. then there is the reduced number of cultures where santa visits on the 24/25 December – Some wait till some time in January and some not at all so the odds are getting better.

        In the early days of Amature radio APRS system some one would introduce Santa into the tracking system as he crossed Australia.

    2. We already know he doesn’t need much time per location. It isn’t claimed he drives a helicopter and follows flight protocols, or that he has to stop and pick the lock to get inside the house.

      How long does it take to wiggle your nose? “not a lot of time!” Certainly less than 3 seconds.

      Making a logical case to prove a negative is absurd; you could never prove Santa doesn’t exist! And the arguments that attempt to will forever be absurd.

      Whereas the argument for Santa existing is merely weak and thin and based on very very low quality data, or inductive reasoning with obvious flaws.

      Having obvious flaws in your argument still leaves it stronger than trying to prove a negative, which is illogical at its root and is widely believed to be impossible.

      In fact I can say with a high degree of scientific certainty that Santa’s non-existence is impossible to prove using science, and that Santa’s existence is merely improbable to prove using science. Improbable has distinct advantages compared to impossible!

      I think Jenny is onto something here.

        1. It is correct. In Buddhism we don’t ask if Santa exists, we ask, why do you have an attachment to knowing if Santa exists or not? Buddhist Santa is the non-existence you strive to achieve when letting go of your attachment to knowledge of Santa. If a person is upset because people are teaching other about Santa, or a person is obsession over how to prove Santa to children, then they can achieve Buddhist Santa only by letting go of their attachments, by letting go of their attachment. When the mind completely stops clinging to attachment, the attachment will stop existing and the state of Buddhist Santa will have been achieved.

          In this way, Buddhist Santa can only exist once Buddhist Santa stops existing. When Buddhist Santa exists, it cannot be Buddhist Santa yet.

          It gets much worse if you try to ponder Buddhist Christmas Presents.

        2. The great Gautama Buddha once had this conversation with his student:

          Subhuti: “Blessed lord, when you were visited by Santa, did you feel in your mind the presence of Santa?”

          The Buddha replied:

          “That is it exactly, Subhuti. When I was visited by Santa, I did not feel, as the mind feels, any arbitrary conception of Santa, not even the slightest. Even the word ‘Santa’ is merely a word, it is used merely as a figure of speech.”

          “Furthermore Subhuti, what I have attained from Santa is the same as what all others have attained. It is undifferentiated, regarded neither as presents, nor coal and twigs. It is wholly independent of any definite or arbitrary conceptions of a Santa, parents, elves, or Christmas.”

          “Subhuti, when someone is selflessly charitable, they should also practice being ethical by remembering that there is no distinction between one’s selfhood and the selfhood of others. Thus one practices charity by giving not only gifts, but through kindness and sympathy. Practice kindness and charity without attachment and you can become fully Santa.”

          And with these words, Subhuti was moved to tears.

  5. /By Clarke’s third law, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
    One could postulate that Santa is a being (possibly from the future or from another plane of existence ) using technology beyond our current scope of knowledge, and as such can do things that are ‘magical’. Not limited to teleportation, time and space control , instant manufacturing using E.L.V,.’s ( insert acronym here ), etc. As a possible quantum being (or user of quantum mechanics) he escapes all attempts to capture or trace his whereabouts. Possibly using L.I.S.T. (insert acronym here) AI he keeps a track of those Naughty or Nice to aid in his gift giving process.

  6. Actual accidental ‘Santa is true’ method from er,… 3 decades ago. Will still work, no-tech.

    I was given the task of wrapping the many young cousins Xmas pressies in 1989, my first year of uni (Architecture). I had got all creative, so I wrapped in plain brown paper, decorated with gold and silver ribbon and LOTS of glitter held on by spray glue. This was done in my room; highest in the house. (BTW, In Australia Santa is pulled by kangaroos as reindeer don’t like it here. Fact.) I took the pressies downstairs to Xmas tree – to the lowest part of the house, down many flights of stairs (house on steep slope) and through many adjoining rooms and hallways. GLITTER EVERYWHERE. Mum went balistic (Hyancinth Bucket-type, google it) as this is Xmas morning, no time to vacuum.

    Horde of young cousins arive (I’m 15 years older than most of them at this point) and go ABOSLUTELY BONKERS.

    “LOOOOK! SANTA DUST! LOOK! It cam from upstairs! You can see where he came in the window! (No chimneys in Australia!)

    Smug face.

    The event has gone down in family history; the now-grown up cousins do the same thing for their kids. Seems to work best 8yrs & below. YKPLMY

  7. Santa does exist. It’s not a person. It’s a system. It’s been implemented by millions of parents that performed intricate logistics to estimulate fantasy and good will in the hearts and minds of their beloved little ones. And fantasy IS an important part of science, innovation and technolgy, specially at early ages.

  8. Simple, you just need to survey 1000 children before and after Christmas. Before Christmas ask them if they believe in Santa. After Christmas, ask them to list all their presents. Then add up the value of all the presents.

    Just make sure that they suspect their parents might have access to their answer.

    I think you’ll find a strong correlation between children who “believe in Santa” and children who get a lot of Christmas presents!

    But if you want to actually convince the children to believe in Santa, don’t bother with the study; just make up a hoax study that shows that children who believe in Santa get a LOT more presents, and show it to them. Many will be convinced! I suspect that many might even go so far as become Santa enthusiasts.

  9. I’d install a PID sensor or even an IR camera near the christmass tree; anything low resolution or blurry enough so you can’t make the difference between a parent and santa.

    To make this into an event, I’d arrange something like that with parents or teachers of a class in a country with enough local time difference to have them do this live while their kids sleep and stream it for the local event.

    The “distant kids” could also present their IR camera installation in visioconf earlier during the (local) day to make this even mode believable and add some “magic” as a visioconf with peoples far away is always cool.
    When I was a kid, we where each paired with a Peruvian kid and would send them letters as a writing exercise, reading the letters (translated from and to spanish by the teacher, this was in france) was always a magical moment (we were 6 did not know internet back then). Most of us kept in contact for a few years.
    So even if some don’t like the “proof” or don’t believe in santa anymore, it will probably still be a very cool day.

    Or not make any arrangement with any far away countries and have some teachers or local parents do this live when the kids are at the event.

    In any cases, blurry proofs are how we know UFOs exist right?

  10. No, no, a THOUSAND times no. Telling your children, who trust you completely, a systematic lie that you build on for years is child abuse. Period. You want to play a game and pretend along with them that Santa is real, just like the floor is lava? Fine. Your kids will have lots of fun without the traumatic shock of knowing that their parents would lie to them so senselessly. (If they already know that you lie to them, then it is already too late unless you are prepared to do a lot of work on yourself to earn their trust back.) Don’t believe me? Think I’m going overboard? Let’s hear what experts have to say.

  11. I still believe he’s real. I mean people say he does it in one night. Well had anyone ever heard of a time zone. If he went across the world he would have more time. And reindeer’s have a certain kind of skin that’s so thin they could probably be able to stand the sky while somehow flying.

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