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Rapunzel fairy tale founded on scientific fact


Vancouver, BC – A hair-raising experiment recently demonstrated that human hair is strong enough to support the weight of a human body. The experiment took place at Science World and was conducted by Linette Ho, the first semi-finalist in the Year of Science ‘Choose Science, Go Far, Win Big’ contest.

The experiment was based on a winning idea from Ms Ho, a 16-year-old student at Moscrop Secondary school in Burnaby. She is the first semi-finalist selected and is now eligible for the grand prize of a $25,000 scholarship. Based on the Rapunzel fairy tale, she posed the question: Is human hair strong enough to lift a human body?

The experiment was carried out with the help of Dr Chad Sinclair, materials engineer and associate professor at the University of British Columbia. A human hair extension was attached to a pulley and Ms Ho, holding onto the hair, was raised to test if the hair was strong enough to hold her weight.

“A single strand of hair is not actually a single fibre, but is made of many smaller fibres all bound together, and this complex structure helps hair resist breaking,” said Dr Sinclair. “Hair is indeed a strong material and is among the natural materials that scientists and engineers are actively looking at for inspiration for making new strong materials for applications in cars, buildings and other engineering structures.

Based on the popular TV show, Mythbusters, the Year of Science ‘Choose Science, Go Far, Win Big’ contest asks young people to upload videos of their ideas for science experiments or myths to be tested. All entries can be submitted to the Year of Science YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/yearofsciencebc.