If Santa Claus was human, during his annual sleigh ride his blood would boil and he would be starved of oxygen – most likely leading to death. Scientists analysed what effect the open cockpit environment would have on Father Christmas' body and deduced he must rely on the "magic of Christmas" to carry out his work.
Experts from the University of Oxford's Aersospace Medicine Research Group, have said that normal people would suffer the effects of oxygen starvation at even much lower altitudes than Santa and his sleigh fly at. The effects of this are actually enhanced in the older generation, so poor Father Christmas at 242 years old – or thereabouts – would theoretically struggle to breath.
"Well, the scientific consensus is that the cruising altitude of Santa's sleigh is at FL600 [approximately 60,000 feet]," said Thomas Smith, leader of the research group. "We would expect Santa Claus to face enormous physiological challenges during his night's work, flying in an open cockpit environment and experiencing rapid and extreme changes in altitude."
Smith also suggests that Father Christmas must have an unusually high tolerance to alcohol. Either that, or he uses some of his festive magic to make the drinks left out for him disappear.
"All pilots know the importance of 'bottle to throttle' time – that is the time between the last alcoholic drink and take off," said Smith. "As incredible as it might sound, the evidence does suggest that Santa remains teetotal for the night. There are no obvious answers, so at this point we can only point to the need for further research."
The scientists have been left puzzled by Saint Nicholas' apparent resistance to changes in atmospheric pressure. Travelling at those kinds of heights, normal human blood will begin to boil due to the low atmospheric pressure – but this isn't the case for Father Christmas.
Smith said: "Nothing makes Santa's blood boil. We postulate that a life in which all days are merry and bright maintains stable blood conditions."
"Much remains unexplained about Santa's physiological exceptionality. Ultimately we have inferred from our work the existence of what we term the 'X Constant', which, while highly complex and multivalent, in layman's terms can best be summed up as the Magic of Christmas."