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A magical matchup: Santa vs. the chimney

By Justin Boron

Trodden hooves clunk along the rooftop, mixing with the ring of sleigh bells. Then, the man with an ever-expanding waistline carries out the extraneous task of sliding down the chimney. So the story goes.

As soon as kids are old enough to remember, they learn about Santa Claus. Mostly about what he brings and leaves for Christmas morning.

But the extra gift given to children is the magical fantasy of Santa's existence – which poses supernatural questions about all the remarkable feats he accomplishes.

In attempt to explain the mystery behind Santa, several scholars and local experts recently laid out some of their theories.

One of the central difficulties facing Santa is the size of chimneys in the homes of Clayton and Henry counties.

Clayton County Building Inspector Norman Hager said most chimneys nowadays are narrow, metal pipes shooting out of the fireplace.

Only eight inches in diameter, architectural advances in the chimney industry have hampered Santa's ability to shimmy into the house from the rooftop, he said.

"When they made the move to a metal fireplace, they made it hard on Santa," Hager said.

The traditional brick chimneys were rectangular and gave Santa about 238 square inches of space, he said.

To overcome this modern day predicament, a local yoga instructor suggested Santa incorporate some yoga and calisthenics in his preparation for the big night.

The loss of a few pounds and a little work on his flexibility would allow Santa to contort his body in a "seated-forward bend," a yoga pose that requires a person to raise their feet to their hands, said Angel Maynard, an instructor at Indigo Yoga Wellness Center in McDonough.

"He would be folded up like a book," she said.

Even if Santa doesn't knock off the necessary pounds, she said he probably could still pull off the pose.

"He is magic after all," Maynard said.

But Santa's weight loss program should be in good shape, according to LA Weight Loss Centers, a national weight loss and nutrition company that says it frequently consults with Mrs. Claus in the north pole.

His mode of entry and exit through the chimney would be a way to lose weight in of itself, the company said on its Web site.

Santa would burn 26,350 calories by jumping from the sleigh to the rooftop and burn about 30,000 more hauling his big bag of toys, the national weight loss and nutrition company said on its Web site.

Another theory posits that Santa wouldn't need yoga or weight loss at all to manage the chimney problem.

For decades, scholars have agonized over the question of Santa.

But some speculation that includes recent advances in computer science may shed some light on how Santa has got presents down the chimney for all these years.

Tatiana Krivosheev, an assistant professor at Clayton College & State University, said Santa does not actually go down the chimney. Instead, he merely aims and throws the presents using technology similar to what directs "smart bombs."

The chimney makes sense as the primary path of delivery, she said, because on a cold, dark night, Santa could use infra-red technology to see a chimney's opening. This would give him a great deal of precision.

One form of the "smart bomb" theory was written in 1993 by Lorenzo Sadun, a math professor at the University of Texas.

Sadun claims the bomb technology would resolve many of the problems with Santa's ability to be at so many places in one night because he would not have to travel at impossible speeds.

"We all saw the pictures of a smart bomb falling through an Iraqi smokestack during the Gulf War. Clearly Santa uses the same technology for toys and chimneys. By dropping, say, 100 toys at a time from high altitude, Santa can reduce his speed," Sadun says in his argument for the existence of Santa.

The addition to Santa's repertoire would also save some wear and tear on his sled, he said.

"Santa keeps up with the times," Sadun said.

Maybe the best answer for Santa keeps with spirit of his legend.

"Magic Powers," said Brianna Phillips, 8.

"Or he just squeezes his tummy," said her sister Chelsea, 6.