Santa should live in Kyrgyzstan

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I realize that Christmas has come and gone, but I just had
to share this neat article that so aptly displays how GIS (Geographic
Information Systems) can be utilized to sort out even the most extraordinary of puzzles: “Santa Claus should live in Kyrgyzstan.”

“Experts at the consulting
engineering company SWECO have come to the conclusion that Santa Claus should
live in
Kyrgyzstan. By starting his journey there, Santa can achieve the most efficient
around-the-world trip to distribute Christmas gifts. He can eliminate
time-consuming detours and avoid subjecting his reindeer to undue strain
”(From SWECO’s website).

As the blurb above indicates, engineers at the Swedish Company SWECO
employed GIS to determine that Santa Claus should start his Christmas Eve
sleigh ride in Kyrgyzstan and travel west around the globe. Apparently, this
will maximize travel efficiency and ensure that he is able to
fully circumnavigate the
Earth by the time that bright-eyed children around the world clamor to open
their presents on Christmas morning.

To arrive at this conclusion, the engineers assessed data related to
planetary rotation, population densities of the world’s children, and
additional demographic information. Kyrgyzstan, specifically the location of
(N) 40.40 °, Longitude: (E) 74.24 °, was ultimately identified as the ideal launching
point due to its proximity to the population centers of China and India, and
its central position in the northern hemisphere where nearly 90% of Earth’s human
population is found. By journeying in a westward direction, Santa can work
against the rotation of the Earth, thereby doubling the time available to
deliver gifts.

Personally, I have a few lingering questions regarding the
comprehensiveness of SWECO’s methodology. For example, was religious
affiliation taken into account as a demographic variable? While China and India
may be home to the world’s first and second largest populations of children, a
recent feature in National Geographic
revealed that only 8% of China’s population, 6% of Indians, and one
third of the world’s total citizens identify as Christian (“States of Faith,”
Culture/Geography, NGM December 2007, source: World Christian Database). And even
if great numbers of children in these two countries were counting on a visit from Santa, why then should he start in
Kyrgyzstan fly
east, and then backtrack west? Why wouldn’t he just start in
Japan, instead?

Additionally, were prevailing trade winds considered in designing the
flight path? At what altitude should he fly? I just might have to email SWECO’s
‘press officer’ to find out more; I’ll be sure to keep you posted if I learn
any additional information about the process of analysis. This would be an
excellent project for a GIS student to take on to see whether they would come
to the same conclusions. Of course, none of this seems to be bothering the Kyrgyz
people: In a country where no more than 25% of the population practices the
Christian faith (at least 75% of the population is Muslim), the government has
announced plans to christen one of country’s many snowy peaks “Mount Santa
, and will host an international Santa Claus Congress next year!

Fascinating, no? This story was certainly
on my mind over the holidays—first pre-Christmas each time I saw a commercial
advertising a GPS device, and again as I sat in traffic for over twelve hours while
driving back to Washington, D.C., from Boston. I
kept thinking: There’s got to be a better way. If only I had a couple of Swedish
engineers in the back seat to optimize my route…and maybe a little magic, too (check
out the
last paragraph of the SWECO article. I can’t help but chuckle every
time I read it)!

 Sarah for My Wonderful World


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4 thoughts on “Santa should live in Kyrgyzstan

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  2. nice story! hope everyone in the my wonderful world team is doing well.
    – tori

  3. LOL! I think you spent way too much time thinking about this 🙂 Fascinating though. I suppose his visits to China and India wouldn’t take up too much of his time.

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