Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer : The Physics of Christmas

Posted on December 24, 2005 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer : The Physics of Christmas

One commonly held view is that Rudolph’s nose was red due to a cold. Others claim that the song has saddled Rudolph with the red-nose slur-the implication being that while Santa consumes the milk and cookies left out for him, Rudolph helps himself to the strong stuff. The unexpected triumph of the drunken, inefficient Rudolph over his sober companions chimes with the relaxation of social conventions that has long taken place during winter festivals.

Odd Halvorsen of the University of Oslo suggested some years ago in the journal Parasitology Today that the “celebrated discoloration” of Rudolph’s nose is probably due to a parasitic infection of his respiratory system. Even today, he is awed by the response that followed this revelation. “This paper brought me more fame than anything else I have published,” he admits.

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