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Why Rudolph’s nose is so bright: Norway study

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer's snout has been immortalised in movies, books and song.

Why Rudolph's nose is so bright: Norway study
Photo: Ashley Coombs

But only recently has science offered an explanation for the glow that allows the world's most famous antlered herbivore to guide Santa's sleigh through the night before Christmas.

In a study released in 2012, researchers in Norway and the Netherlands used a hand-held microscope to examine the nasal lining of five healthy humans, two reindeer and a sixth person with a non-cancerous nasal growth.

Reindeer noses have 25 percent more blood vessels than human noses, according to the tongue-in-cheek investigation, published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in its Christmas edition.

The tiny blood vessels provide plentiful oxygen-carrying cells and help control the body's temperature, showed their findings, which were backed by an infrared image of a reindeer after exercise.

“Rudolph's nose is red because it is richly supplied with red blood cells, comprises a highly dense microcirculation, and is anatomically and physiologically adapted for reindeer to carry out their flying duties for Santa Claus,” the paper observes.

VIDEO: Lars Folkow from the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø, explains:

Rudolph's round-the-world feat has been closely scrutinized by physicists.   

In order to deliver presents to children in around 100 million homes where the Santa tradition is observed, he would have to travel at around 1,000 kilometres (650 miles) per second, they estimate.

At such speeds, the reindeer, Santa and the sleigh would be vaporised by friction with the air, along with the gifts and any little elvish helpers who came along for the ride.

Rudolph would need to deploy an ion shield to protect them, or exploit loopholes in the space-time continuum so that they travelled between dimensions in order to deliver the presents on time.

READ ALSO: Norwegians take six-metre inflatable Santa to top of Europe's highest sea cliff

CHRISTMAS

Could Christmas in Norway be affected by new Covid-19 measures?

Norway’s government has in the last two days announced tightened rules relating to Covid-19 isolation and face masks. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre sought to reassure the public over plans for the Christmas holidays.

Norway's PM Jonas Gahr Støre expects the country's residents to be able to celebrate Christmas normally but cannot rule out new Covid-19 measures before December 24th.
Norway's PM Jonas Gahr Støre expects the country's residents to be able to celebrate Christmas normally but cannot rule out new Covid-19 measures before December 24th. Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

The government on Tuesday announced new measures relating to quarantine rules for confirmed Covid-19 cases and face mask guidelines.

The measures, which are being introduced in response to increasing infection numbers, include more stringent isolation rules, face mask recommendations and a push to vaccinate over 65s with booster jabs as soon as possible.

“On one side, we must avoid full hospitals and strain on the health system. On the other side we must live as normally as possible. We must keep finding the right balance in the measures,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a statement.

Tighter quarantine rules for suspected cases with the new Omicron variant were meanwhile launched on Monday. People who test positive for or are believed to be infected with the Omicron variant will need to isolate for longer than others with the virus.

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In comments during a briefing to press on Tuesday, Støre sought to reassure the public over plans to spend Christmas with loved ones.

“The measures we have introduced are settings that make it possible to celebrate a good Christmas while keeping in mind what you can do with your loved ones,” the PM said in comments reported by newspaper VG.

“We can plan to be with our families at Christmas,” he added.

Last year saw Christmas in Norway significantly impacted by restrictions on the number of people who could meet and mixing between households.

Such far-reaching restrictions are not expected in 2021. Støre did not however rule out additional measures being introduced before December 24th.

“What we have presented today is based on the knowledge we already have,” he said.

“It is the total restrictions that count. If we are in the same situation (as now) when we get to December 24th, you can celebrate Christmas normally,” Støre said, but noted the virus would be present throughout the winter.

The aim of any measures is to keep the pandemic under control throughout the winter, he added.

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