Saturday, December 24, 2005

You Better Watch Out

HealthCentral Special Report:

SATURDAY, Dec. 24 (HealthDay News) -- A "Naughty or Nice" machine based on Santa's special ability to detect which children have been bad or good has been developed by researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Santa Institute.

The researchers used specially designed Santa Claus Emission Tomography (SCET) to scan Santa's brain. They then discovered that the jolly old elf has a special lobe. It's this "frontotemporoperiotaloccipital lobe" that enables Santa to determine children's behavior over the previous year.

"If a child has been nice, a special part of Santa's brain will become active. If a child has been naughty, we have noticed that a different part of his brain lights up. As a result of this study, we think we've figured out how Santa knows who has been naughty or nice," Santa Institute member Dr. David J. Dzielak said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues used that information to create a prototype "Naughty or Nice" detector - a wireless silver headset that uses Bluetooth technology to connect to a shiny silver box. The box has a green light that signifies "good" and a red light that signifies "naughty."

The Santa Institute scientists recently tested the machine on 100 first graders at Jackson Academy. All the students registered "nice," although there were a few close calls.

Fellow Santa Institute member Dr. Andrew W. Grady enlisted the children's help in an ongoing study to determine the optimal reindeer snack.

Each child was asked to sprinkle the contents of "Reindeer Test Diet A" or "Reindeer Test Diet B" on their lawns on Christmas Eve. The children have been asked to report back on which treat seemed more popular.

As for the mystery of how Santa's reindeer fly, Grady said he and his colleagues haven't yet found a definitive answer.

"We know the reindeer are very strong, and that they have hollow bones. But another good reason may be Santa's magic. That's perhaps the best explanation I know," Grady said.

Santa's real age is another perplexing matter, noted Santa Institute member Dr. William H. Sorey.

"Nobody really knows. We know he is at least 347 years old, but he may be as much as a couple of thousand years old. The real question is not how old he is, but how does he live so long?" Sorey said.

The secret to that may be Santa's generosity, the researchers said.

"You have to have a lot of love in your heart and a lot of joy to give so many gifts. And that's the secret to a long life," Sorey said.


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