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gingernomics

I READ there were fears the ginger gene had only 100 more years to go before it died out.

I read that, if you subscribe to the rules of natural selection, the red-haired gene should never have survived so long in the first place. So really, so it goes, the only explanation for the continuance of the gingers is sexual selection theory: traits with no obvious advantage survive because their owners are attractive and able to reproduce. Basically, gingers are still around because people fancy them.

Why, then, do the flame-haired among us get so much hassle, particularly in the country providing their natural habitat? It's a long-engrained bias. On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Eve has sensible brown hair before she bites that apple. After succumbing to temptation she's depicted as a carrot top. What does that tell you?

Women get the worst of it. There's a French proverb, for example, that says: "Red-headed women are either violent or false, and usually are both." Charment. Jonathan Swift wrote: "The red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest." Sounds good to me.

ScotlandsDNA, a project aiming to uncover the genetic roots of the Scots, has turned its attentions to the roots of red hair. Researchers want to find out why so many people in Scotland have the ginger gene. Only 1-2% of the world's population has red hair but in Scotland that figure sits about 13%.

Once the results are in, Alistair Moffat, managing director of ScotlandsDNA, and his team, will make a big, numerical, red map of Britain. It costs £25 to take part in the study but some may find it a small price to pay to find out their likelihood of making ginger children.

Mr Moffat believes the number of possible carriers of the gene in Scotland is pretty large. I hope so. Maybe if we discover the majority of the population has ginger links the redheads will take over. It will become embarrassing to be brunette. "Carrot top" will be replaced in the insult lexicon with "potato head". "Banana bonce" for blondes.

Playground cries of "Beaker!" will swap to "Miss Piggy!" or "Sweetums!" Inquiries regarding the redhead's consumption of Sunny D will be switched to quantities of Kia-Ora or Coca-Cola imbibed. Ah, revenge. A dish best served cold and served with a side of ginger relish.

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Beauty

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