Naughty, Nice, or NORAD
By Jeffery Robichaud
As a father I love both my boys, tremendously. They have so many unique qualities which make their mother and I very proud. Of course they also have their idiosyncrasies. My youngest has a specific one that never ceases to amaze us…the ability to sound old beyond his years in a flippant, matter of fact, but somehow ridiculously funny way. He said something the other day that cracked us up yet again. At dinner he mentioned that some of the kids at school had the temerity to question the authenticity of a one Mr. Jolly Saint Nick. My wife asked him, “Well what did you say?” Without a second thought he quipped, “I told them of course he’s real, otherwise NORAD wouldn’t bother tracking him with satellites.” That’s my boy. So I know what we’ll be doing this December 24th, a time honored tradition in the Robichaud house that I mentioned in last year’s post.
If you have read any of my blog articles, you know I have two rugrats. As both a scientist and an amateur geospatial enthusiast, I often find myself in the awkward position of having to try and describe the physics of a one Mr. Pere Noel’s trip to my boys about this time every year. Thankfully, all sorts of films have taken a stab at trying to explain a certain flight every December 24th. My favorite growing up (possibly because it starred Jacklyn Smith albeit as a parka wearing mom) was “The Night they Saved Christmas,” where elf Paul Williams explained such futuristic concepts as Santa’s Reindeer Zephyr and instant People Mover as well as some gizmo that slowed time. Last year’s “Arthur Christmas” had a more modern take. I think we probably will never really know how Sinterklaas does it… plain old magic I suppose.
But even though every year I am unable to break down the science for my boys, I am able to help out with the geography thanks to the fine men and women at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
If you log into the NORAD Santa Tracker website on the 24th you can track Kris Kringle across the globe. My kids have loved it, and in my experience it has a couple of extra benefits. First it helps to pass a day full of anticipation since if they get antsy, I ask them to go check on Santa. Second it sneaks a bit of education into a mindless winter break filled with sweets and video games. Finally, it serves as an extra incentive to go to sleep on time as we watch Old Saint Nick creeping closer and closer to Kansas City (it’s amazing how fast they move when he hits St. Louis). This year they have switched from Google Maps to Bing Maps so I hope everything goes smoothly. If it crashes you can always check out Google’s own Santa Tracker (and hint…it doesn’t work properly in Internet Explorer)
It looks like both trackers have received cool upgrades this year, so I’m not exactly sure what to expect, but NORAD’s uses Bing and Google’s uses, well Google (I have updated the links in the above article). We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our posts in our first full year of the Big Blue Thread. Here is wishing all of you a Happy Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.
Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division. More Cool gifts that Jeff can remember Santa bringing include the Space:1999 Eagle 1 Spaceship, the Adventure People Wilderness Patrol Set, and the Flying Aces Attack Carrier.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.
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