Does Santa use a GPS?

Millions of children and their parents will track Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve as he moves with the sunset, from East to West. It may surprise you to learn that mathematicians also spend some time thinking about Santa’s travel plans because Santa Claus is the most efficient business traveler ever known and his navigation across the globe is a prime example of the Traveling Salesman Problem.

So, we are pleased to offer some tools to explore the TSP while you’re waiting for Jolly Old St. Nick to slide down your chimney:

Official NORAD Santa Tracker — the definitive Santa tracker, NORAD provides hour by hour reports of Santa sightings so you can chart his progress.

Santa Claus and the Traveling Salesman Problem in the Orlando Sentinel — a classic article on the Santa Claus problem from 1998. Visualized here.

Concorde TSP Solver — this app allows you to plot your own path around the world. Discover the most efficient ways to travel to all the capitols from Japan to N. America, or plot in U.S. cities to see how Santa most likely makes his way.

In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman by William J. Cook — the definitive book on the TSP problem provides the history of TSP, the challenges to his solution, and the current research being conducted.

Comments

  1. The traveling salesman problem is something I already heard about when I studied science computing at MIT. Never touhght to apply it to santa ! I hope he solved it this year

  2. Response…I love this post!