'Excuse me, beautiful, do you have space in your handbag for my Merc keys?' And if you think that's excruciating, you should hear the successful chat-up lines...

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Having sweated over the origins of the universe and split the atom, academics have finally tackled the question that has perplexed mankind since the dawn of time: what are the best chat-up lines?

For millions of males forced to do a swift about- turn in nightclubs, the advice is simple. The way to a woman's heart is to dazzle her with a bit of culture and suggest that you're a fine specimen of a man.

Think long term, even if that is not your intention. For, according to psychologists from Edinburgh and Central Lancashire universities, the opening gambit is much more than a simple introduction. They tried 40 "verbal signals of genetic quality" on 205 people.

Dr Christopher Bale, who led the research, explained the findings. "The highest-rated lines were those reflecting the man's ability to take control of a situation, his wealth, education or culture, and spontaneous wit. A direct request for sex received a low score, but it was not the least effective gambit."

So what are the words of wonder that researchers believe will secure a night of passion? Apparently: "It's hot today isn't it? It's the best weather when you're training for the marathon."

Another winner, they assure us, is to steer conversation towards your favourite music, so you can drop the line: "The Moonlight Sonata or, to give it it's true name, Sonata quasi una fantasia. A fittingly beautiful piece for a beautiful lady."

By now, you may be wondering what the worst lines were. Well, "You're the star that completes the constellation of my existence" is unlikely to make her swoon.

The Independent on Sunday decided to road test the research at London's fashionable Match Bar near Oxford Circus. We began with one of the top five offerings.

"Ten-ton polar bear."

"What," replied the young brunette at the bar. "Well, it breaks the ice, doesn't it," we said, optimistically.

The verbal response was unprintable. Undeterred, we pressed on. "Your eyes are blue like the ocean, and baby I'm lost at sea."

The result: "You're an idiot. And you're colour- blind - they're brown."

The lauded marathon line attracted only giggles. We got a better response to the line "There's something in your eye. Nope, it's just a sparkle", but the big winner proved to be our very own: "Is that a ladder in your tights or a stairway to heaven?"

The scientists maintain that while it might be good to hint at having the means to support a potential partner, showing off is not appreciated. "I was just wondering if you had space in your bag for my Merc keys" proved their ultimate flop.