The Grinch’s cardiologist and other researchers make sense of Christmas tales

It’s Christmas! So researchers at Johns Hopkins, Georgetown University and other learned places brought their expertise to some of the strange stuff in the holiday’s classic tales.

It was the first time in his career fixing hearts at Johns Hopkins Medicine that David Kass had been asked to diagnose a condition like this: A heart two sizes too small suddenly grows three sizes in one day.

For the residents of Whoville, yes, the transformation was wondrous. But when asked to be the Grinch’s cardiologist, Kass considered what medical conditions might have caused such a change. Never before had he been asked to diagnose a storybook character — but then again, how many storybook characters have cardiac issues? “Horton has hearing problems,” he noted, but you would need an ear, nose and throat specialist for that.

It’s Christmas. And so researchers at Johns Hopkins, Georgetown University and other learned places are bringing their expertise to some of the holiday’s classic tales.

Georgetown professors answered questions such as: Does Santa use big data to find the perfect gift for every child? Why doesn’t Claus age?

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And they even wondered — Grinch-like — whether there might be some toy-licensing violations going on in Santa’s workshop.

At Johns Hopkins, they called on a theoretical particle physicist to explain the ghosts who bring Scrooge into his past and his future in Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.”

Moving forward in time is easy, said physicist Ibrahima Bah, an assistant professor at Hopkins: Just start moving close to the speed of light.

“In principle, physics allows you to go forward in time compared to another person,” he said, drawing on Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity: If one person (say, a ghost) is moving fast compared to someone else, his clock will tick slower; 10 years in the ghost’s reference frame…

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