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The BBC's Faye Hawker
"10,000 people took part in the online quiz"
 real 56k

Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Sexiest geek declared
Ellen Spertus
Sexiest Geek Alive Ellen Spertus in geek heaven
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

A computer science professor has been declared the Sexiest Geek Alive.

Ellen Spertus, who teaches at Mills College in California, beat off competition from thousands of entrants and eight other finalists to the title.

The competition, which emphasises "brains not beauty", aims to find the geek who combines a deep knowledge of computers with non-geeky traits such as social skills and even good looks.

Ms Spertus received her crown and scepter at a star-studded pageant held in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Sexy search

The search for the Sexiest Geek Alive started in April with the first of 11 regional competitions designed to slim down the thousands of entrants to a handful that would vie for the coveted title.

Sample Sexy Geek questions
What US pizza franchise does not offer internet ordering?
What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
Who holds regular "Geeks with Guns" parties?
In Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series, Hari Seldon lays down the precepts of what branch of fictional science?

Entrants to the regional finals were chosen by answering 40 questions to test their geekiness on the Sexiest Geek Alive website. To limit cheating some of the questions were chosen randomly and some had to be answered within a time limit. Questions were asked in categories such as mathematics, sciences, nerd culture, science fiction and, of course, computers.

The questions plumbed the depths of geek knowledge and required entrants to know the answer to such things as "What are you measuring if the result is -9.81 metres per second squared?" and "What is the width of the address bus on an Intel 486DX processor?".

High scoring entrants were then interviewed and those judged to be the sexiest went forward to one of the regional or online heats. From these contests nine finalists - four women and five men - were chosen to fight it out for the top title.

Ms Spertus has impeccable geek credentials owning an electric car, which has a registration plate that spells out Ohms law, and having successfully sued a company that sent her spam or unwanted commercial e-mail. Ms Spertus wins a state of the art PC and a Caribbean cruise for two.

The contest was thought up by Stephen Phenix reputedly after a row with his fiancÚ over the general state of geekiness in the US.

Alien awards

Perhaps fittingly the final pageant was held at the Broadband Year 2001 conference in San Francisco. Chase Masterson, who played Leeta on the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine TV show, was the showbiz host for the event.

Just like the beauty contests it apes, all nine finalists have five minutes to show or explain to the judges why they should be crowned sexiest geek. Some of the entrants are planning to do some stand-up comedy; others are airing homemade videos to show off their technical prowess. Perhaps thankfully there is no swimsuit section.

Miss World, Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka Chopra: Miss World 2000. Not an entrant.
Other finalists were the editor of a computer magazine and a handful of technology consultants.

Originally only men could enter the contest, but protests by girl geeks led the organisers to open it up to women too. About 18,000 people entered the competition in 2000.

Last year's winner Tony Northrup became a minor celebrity after the contest. Mr Northrup said in the biography that accompanied his application: "Like my father and his father before him, I am a geek. It's remarkable that my ancestors even managed to breed."

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