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It's not about the clothes: scientists have studied Santa Claus's appearance and made an unexpected conclusion

Alina MilsentNews
Scientists analyze the appearance of Santa Claus

Santa Claus is a constant hero of the Christmas and New Year holidays. Santa has different names in different cultures: Père Noël in France, Joulupukki in Finland, Babbo Natale in Italy, Jyltumte in Sweden, Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, and St. Nicholas in Poland.

Previous studies have shown that children as young as three years old can recognize Santa Claus by his characteristic appearance. Scientists have created a "Santa detection machine" and used it to prove what children have been telling adults for generations, namely that Santa has a unique face and can be easily distinguished from other elderly bearded men. The details were reported by The Guardian.

Dr. Thomas Wright, a clinical geneticist at the University of Manchester, said that the researchers were interested in what features children recognize Santa by: perhaps a long white beard or red clothes.

To conduct the study, Wright and his colleagues used a recognition algorithm similar to facial identification software used to unlock smartphones or identify people in digital photo libraries. They collected images of Santa from the Internet. The researchers then used the software to scrutinize additional images of Santa, as well as other adult men and older men with beards.

"The important thing is that the algorithm only looks at facial features. It doesn't matter what the person is wearing or what colors are in the photo. We wanted to know if Santa had a facial phenotype that could be distinguished from other adult men with beards," Wright explained.

The study, published in the journal Vision, found that the "Santa face" was indistinguishable from other men's faces.

The program did not classify any depictions of St. Nicholas, the early Christian bishop whose habit of secretly giving gifts is believed to have inspired modern ideas about the symbol of Christmas, as Santa.

It also did not classify Walter Clement Shields, an early 20th-century Alaskan who has recently been proposed as the prototype of Santa.

Wright suggested that all animators attending the annual World Congress of Santa Clauses should take this test.

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