"Obviously, much more research and technical innovation is going to be necessary" before any machine approximates Santa's level of discernment, Dzielak said.
Elsewhere at the institute, Dr. Rebecca Waterer, an assistant professor of medicine at UMC, is especially interested in Santa's snacking preferences.
"Our experiments involve studying before-and-after photographs of snacks left for Santa," she said. The result? Burning up calories during his busy night globetrotting, Santa eats almost everything kids leave out for him, except for fruitcake, Waterer said. Noticing the jolly gent's generous tummy, she advised that children skip the fruitcake (too fattening) and lean toward healthier fare so that Santa can shimmy down chimneys for years to come.
He'll certainly need all the nourishment he can get. According to experts at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) -- which tracks Santa's Christmas Eve journey via radar, jet fighters and satellites each year -- Mr. Claus is set to deliver presents to all of the world's 6,634,570,959 people in just one night.
Beginning at 4 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Christmas Eve, NORAD is again helping kids everywhere track Santa's global progress via their Web site, http://www.noradsanta.org/.
Other experts outside NORAD and the Santa Institute have their own theories on how Santa gets the job done year in, year out.
In a statement, a panel of physician-experts at the Pennsylvania Medical Society theorized that, given his stamina and longevity, Santa probably goes for regular checkups, gets a flu shot during the hectic period before Christmas, and takes very good care of his skin -- important when one considers the cold and irritation his face must suffer in that open sleigh.
"I do get worried about his rosy cheeks," said Dr Victor Marks, a society member and president of the Pennsylvania Academy
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