Physicists have come up with a maths formula that measures how skilled you are with a pair of chopsticks.

University of Surrey researchers came up with a "comfort factor" which determines how at ease you are with the 5,000-year-old Chinese implements.

The comfort factor is measured on a scale of one to 100 and takes into account several factors such as the food's mass and how slippery it is:

C = (Co(square root)Nnad(2-d)) / (Mt(1+a))

- C is the "comfort" or ease level of using chopsticks, (100 is a high comfort level, while one is the maximum level of discomfort) - N is the number of Chinese meals eaten with chopsticks - t is the time in seconds it takes to get the food from plate to mouth, - n, a, d and m refer to the shape, slipperiness, diameter and mass of the food - Co is a constant incorporating unknown information such as how long the chopsticks are and that angle at which the user is holding them.

Using this formula, experts worked out that a complete novice faced with a 1cm piece of shredded duck in sauce and armed only with chopsticks would have to eat 1,000 Chinese meals before using chopsticks became as easy as picking up food with their fingers.

The formula was devised by Dr Al-Khalili and his postdoctoral researcher Qiang Zhao. Dr Al-Khalili said the formula had been "thrashed out in a morning, before coffee." The researchers are not expecting their formula to bring and end to this peculiar aversion. "We're not proposing that people go along to a restaurant with this formula," Dr Al-Khalili said.

Chopsticks are supposed to be held at a 45-degree angle, pressing down with the index finger on the first stick.