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Medicine Science

Why Some People Don't Have Fingerprints 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the are-they-diabolical-masterminds dept.
sciencehabit writes "A small number of people in the world don't have fingerprints. The condition is known as adermatoglyphia, and one scientist has dubbed it the 'immigration delay disease' because sufferers have such a hard time entering foreign countries. In addition to smooth fingertips, they also produce less hand sweat than the average person. Now researchers have identified the genetic mutation behind the condition (abstract)."
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Why Some People Don't Have Fingerprints

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  • What countries? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zget (2395308) on Friday August 05, 2011 @02:03PM (#36998808)
    What countries need fingerprints to enter? I've traveled in Asia and pretty much every shithole in earth and have never needed to give my fingerprint.
    • by QBasicer (781745)
      The US requires fingerprints depending on your nationality, I think if you're *NOT* North American, but I could be wrong.
    • by edjs (1043612)
      Japan and the US, though the US doesn't require it of visitors from certain nations.
      • Yeah you can travel around most places in the Western world without being fingerprinted, the US being an obvious exception.

        This mutation sounds advantageous - no fingerprints and less palm sweat? I'd like that. I just wonder, do they have a harder time gripping small objects with smooth fingers?

        • by Baloroth (2370816)
          I imagine you can test this yourself pretty well. Test the grip you get on an object with both the inside and outside of a finger. Its not exactly scientific, but it leads me to suspect that yes, they'd have a harder time gripping things. It feels to me like the fingerprint side gives considerably greater grip. Could also have different consistency to the skin, so like I say, not scientific. The sweat also gives a grip advantage (I suspect this is why palms get sweaty in tense situations. It allows one to h
          • by Golddess (1361003)

            Test the grip you get on an object with both the inside and outside of a finger.

            I don't know about you, but my fingers don't bend that way @.@

            Or am I greatly misunderstanding what you mean?

            • by Baloroth (2370816)
              Ok, yeah, outside was a poor choice of words. I meant the finger-nail side (or just the edge, for that matter). I was thinking "outside" as opposed to inside your hand, i.e. when you grab something it is "in" your hands. Outside would just be the outer portion of your hand with respect to that (back of the hand might be more precise.)
              • by TheABomb (180342)

                What? Like pushing the backs of both hands together? I've seen puppets of tyrannosauri with better-evolved manual dexterity than that!

              • by Golddess (1361003)
                Sorry, still not seeing how I'm supposed to grip something in one hand with the fingernail side of my fingers. Unless... wait, did you mean both hands? Holding something between both hands with fingertips in vs fingernails in?
                • Remember Robin, always use both hands!

                • by Baloroth (2370816)
                  I was thinking dragging your finger along a table or stationary object, and testing the resistance that way. It's Friday, I might not be explaining this the best. Although your way works too. Perhaps we both have over thought this subject.
          • If sweat helped you to grip better, climbers and gymnasts wouldn't use chalk.

            • by Baloroth (2370816)
              Some sweat (i.e. being a tiny bit damp). Lots of sweat, no, then it starts slipping.
            • by RMingin (985478)

              Actually, chalk dust alone doesn't help, in fact it impedes grip slightly. Chalk dust plus small quantities of sweat, though, makes a very abrasive/grippy mud.

        • by Marillion (33728)
          Brazil has a long standing tradition of matching visa fees and procedures of the US for US citizens. The idea being do unto your citizens what you do unto ours. So Brazil started fingerprinting US citizens the same time the US started fingerprinting Brazilian citizens.
    • by j-pimp (177072)
      To actually immigrate (for working) to the US you do.
    • by ibib (464750)

      What countries need fingerprints to enter? I've traveled in Asia and pretty much every shithole in earth and have never needed to give my fingerprint.

      Perhaps if you stopped travelling in "shitholes" you would encounter this... This mostly happens to people entering the Land of the Free

      • Perhaps if you stopped travelling in "shitholes" you would encounter this... This mostly happens to people entering the Land of the Free

        There is something wrong with the logic in this sentence. I just can't put my finger on it....

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          It's "the land of the free" because assholes are (supposedly) held to account for what they do. Supposedly this results in less "this is why we can't have/do nice things"

          (supposedly)

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            Except when they're rich and give millions of dollars a year to the DNC or RNC. Then, they get a light slap on the wrist. And that is why the rest of us can't have nice things.

            • by X0563511 (793323)

              I don't suppose you noticed all those "supposedly"s stuck in there? You know, that actually means something. I didn't just put them there for the hell of it.

              • I don't suppose you noticed all those "supposedly"s stuck in there? You know, that actually means something (supposedly). I didn't just put them there for the hell of it. (supposedly)

                fix'd.

                (supposedly)

              • by dgatwood (11270)

                Yeah, I noticed the "supposedly"s. I was just amplifying the sentiment.

    • by 0racle (667029)
      Summary is most likely poorly written (imagine that). It's humourously called 'immigration delay,' Immigration != visiting. I had to be finger printed to enter the US under a work visa and than again applying for permanent residency. I'm Canadian.
      • I just visited the U.S. (came back last Tuesday) - I'm from the EU, so we get don't need a visa when just visiting, just the ESTA program stuff (where we pay $15 for the privilege of promoting tourism to the U.S.) - and just before entering the country, i.e. at the border checkpoint in the airport, the following were taken:
        left hand, fingerprints
        left hand, thumbprint
        right hand, fingerprints
        right hand, thumbprint
        mugshot from looking straight into a webcamera, no smiling

        other security measures, while flying w

    • The US, ever since the Republicans turned the country into a bunch of scared, thumb-sucking wusses after 9-11.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        The US, ever since the Republicans turned the country into a bunch of scared, thumb-sucking wusses after 9-11.

        Hadn't the Democrats taken over Congress by the time they started demanding fingerprints to enter America?

        • That wasn't until 2006, but to be fair both parties were falling over themselves to implement the most draconian measures they thought they could get away with. Russ Feingold was the only Senator who voted against the bill and it passed the house with a 337 to 79 vote. That looks pretty bipartisan to me, even if Bush wanted to veto* it he couldn't.

          *You never know he might have been against it, but a snowball has better chance of making it to the center of the sun intact.
          • by C0R1D4N (970153)
            Actually, had he wanted to veto, he likely could have. Most representatives/senators won't want to overturn a veto from a president in their own party.
      • Yes yes... Blame the political party. Because your ideology makes more sense then the other guys where your ideology differs from.

        If the solutions had an easy fix don't you think we would have solved it already. The problem is a lot of these issues are not easy, even though your ideology community may make it seem so as to gather more people.
        If you allow complete freedom and let anyone in and out and back in again. Then chances are your freedom will be lost due to take over of an authoritarianism governmen

    • by bkpark (1253468)

      Not "to enter", to immigrate.

      I had to be fingerprinted (all 10 fingers) twice during my immigration process (once for the green card, and then again for naturalization application).

      If you are lucky enough to have been born in U.S. (or born to U.S. parents), you don't have to get your fingerprint stored into a database, of course ...

      • UNLESS, of course, you are ever arrested, or decide to join the military, or apply for a government job, or become a cop, or a firefighter. I'm sure there are more, but those pretty much cover it.

    • You also need to provide skin samples, hair samples, retina scans, platelet values and stool samples. Plus 20 minutes of you walking like a duck.

    • by DavMz (1652411)

      Japan has fingerprint scanners at the passport checking counters... for foreigners only.

    • by Jazari (2006634)

      What countries need fingerprints to enter? I've traveled in Asia and pretty much every shithole

      I'm Canadian born and I still had to submit my fingerprints and had a photo taken just to be allowed to transit through NYC (not even exiting the airport) on a flight from Dubai to Canada. This was in 2010.

      I politely asked if this was necessary and was told by the border officer (TSA?) that it was mandatory. (This might be a lie, but I had no choice either way)

    • Mozambique if you apply for temporary or permanent residency.
    • by Antarius (542615)
      Try travelling to the US as a non-citizen.

      First time I've ever been fingerprinted. >=(


      I'll leave the "shithole" needing fingerprints comments to someone else, though. ;)
    • by Agripa (139780)

      Probably the same ones that revoke your drivers license if you have the wrong face:

      http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/07/17/man_sues_registry_after_license_mistakenly_revoked/?page=full [boston.com]

      But that is ok since no civil rights are impacted and it is just an inconvenience:

      "A driver's license is not a matter of civil rights. It's not a right. It's a privilege," she said. "Yes, it is an inconvenience [to have to clear your name], but lots of people have their identities stolen, and that's

    • by jrumney (197329)
      Among Asian countries, at least Japan, Thailand and Malaysia require fingerprints from non-citizens to enter.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Japan has required them, along with a photo of your face, for some years now. There is a little machine at the immigration counter that records all the data.

      I often wonder when standing in line to get through the gate what would happen if I burnt my fingers and couldn't provide a fingerprint. Do they even check the prints? The real world isn't like CSI where some computer comes up with a perfect match every time, at best it can narrow down the possibilities and a human does the rest. I imagine they just kee

  • I'm sure that after a few years in this world, their finger tips are not blemish free. So long as they leave behind at least a trace of oil, I'd argue that these fingerprints, being much more unique, would actually make the person easier to identify.

    • by Rhywden (1940872)
      I disagree. I myself have been "several years on this world" and my finger tips are certainly blemish free.
      • Mine aren't but it does take a lot of damage. Even deep cuts heal well, but really bad burns not so much.
        • by Rhywden (1940872)
          Yeah, but I rather meant this as a reply to his suggested automatism that a long life leads to recognizable scar patterns on the fingertips.
        • Instead of one big trauma, it can be an accumulation of a lot of little trauma. Older people who have done hard physical labor all their lives commonly don't have any fingerprints left. This is proving one of the challenges in India's big biometric ID project, as they are finding that a lot of their lower-class older citizens do not, in fact, have fingerprints.

        • I took a significant chunk out of a finger with a vegetable peeler. That healed smooth and ridge-free. Of course, it hurt a lot and was difficult to convince to stop bleeding, and would not be a very practical way to remove your own fingerprints..
    • by blair1q (305137)

      A smudge is the typical result of any finger moving while on the surface. It would be very hard to discern that from a print from a smooth finger, or an oily latex glove.

    • It actually takes quite a bit of damage to change your finger prints. I know this because mine seem to come back undamaged from normal abuse like cuts, and minor burns. I do however have a rather unique mark on one of my fingers that I got when torching a nut off a bolt and not waiting until it was fully cool, I have the thread pattern now permanently in my finger from where I grabbed it.
      • by Qzukk (229616)

        I've got a mark on one finger where I learned as a kid that 100W lightbulbs can be very hot even when they're turned off. It does seem that fingerprints heal better from cutting than burning.

  • "Researchers have identified the genetic mutation behind the condition."

    Good. Can the rest of us have it now, please?

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Friday August 05, 2011 @02:22PM (#36999022)

    It's more complicated than "someone has fingerprints or they don't." The testing method matters, too. The print some people leave with the traditional ink-and-paper is substantially different from the print they leave with direct-light fingerprint scanners, which is substantially different from the print they leave with 3D sidelight fingerprint scanners. And all of these, of course, vary in comparison to latent prints, which vary depending on a host of factors.

    • by PRMan (959735)
      I tried to give fingerprints as part of coaching kids' soccer. The fingerprinters were using an electronic device to take them. They eventually let me coach anyway despite the fact that they never could get a valid print from me because of my sweaty hands (or maybe because my electrical resistance is different from everyone else, not sure). They probably shouldn't do fingerprinting outside on a 104 day with no paper towels, since they were having a LOT of problems.
      • What kind of paranoia fueled logic does it take to require fingerprints from a volunteer soccer coach?

        • You clearly aren't "thinking of the children."

        • by arth1 (260657)

          The kind of paranoid society where, if it turns out that the volunteer football couch turns out to be a sex offender (guilty of anything from rape to urinating in public or mooning a copper), the ravenous horde known as parents will sue the club.

          That he called it "soccer" should have clued you in to which country this might be.

          • by j-beda (85386)

            The kind of paranoid society where, if it turns out that the volunteer football couch turns out to be a sex offender (guilty of anything from rape to urinating in public or mooning a copper), the ravenous horde known as parents will sue the club.

            Probably there would not be a lawsuit unless the coach (ha - you said couch!) ends up being accused of something, and in that case it wouldn't be too surprising that people would be looking for someone to blame (beyond of course just the perp). It is hard for humans to accept that sometimes bad things happen and that trying to guard against every possible bad outcome is counterproductive.

          • by sjames (1099)

            Had he called it football it wouldn't be all that different. They killed a pediatrician in the U.K. because they got confused with pedophile.

        • by Chysn (898420)

          What kind of paranoia fueled logic does it take to require fingerprints from a volunteer soccer coach?

          Why, aren't you just adorable!

    • But most of the prints that are taken are the standard ink and paper ones. I got questioned about my prints when I worked security (they would fingerprint everyone for the job) as they thought I was trying to throw off the system since I do have damaged finger prints. No one expects a series of perfectly parallel lines cutting basically perpendicular to the rest of the pattern in that area.
      • But most of the prints that are taken are the standard ink and paper ones. I got questioned about my prints when I worked security (they would fingerprint everyone for the job) as they thought I was trying to throw off the system since I do have damaged finger prints. No one expects a series of perfectly parallel lines cutting basically perpendicular to the rest of the pattern in that area.

        Surprisingly, features like this actually make it easier to pick out your prints vs. my prints. Until everyone starts doing this, that is.

        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          I am guessing he gripped a hot bolt. This isn't something most people would want to do.

  • Since I work as a tile layer all my fingerprints gets scrubbed away when handling tiles the whole day.

    I was just recently to the police office to apply for a new passport, and we had a really hard time to get visible prints on their scanner... in the end the clerk just gave up and said "ok, this is probably good enough" and accepted the scan :-)

    • Where do you live that you need fingerprints for a passport?
      • Where do you live that you think a fingerprint for your passport is unusual?
        • by JimBobJoe (2758)

          The Anglo-Saxon countries don't fingerprint for passports. Australia, NZ, UK, Ireland, US, Canada....

          Keeping in mind, the EU requirement is only for the prints to be stored on the passport and not in a central archive. Only the Netherlands, apparently, stores them in a central archive.

      • by indeterminator (1829904) on Friday August 05, 2011 @02:51PM (#36999328)
        In EU. The fingerprints are stored on an RFID chip. It's the only kind of passport you can get around here.
        • by JimBobJoe (2758)

          Ireland and the UK used an opt-out and do not require fingerprints for their passports.

      • Sweden.

        Tho I can't recall that I needed it last time so perhaps this is something new..

    • by sp0tter (1456139)
      My family are bricklayers and have similar problems. I heard once about someone who got a DUI but could not get printed. The officer simply told him to take two weeks off work to allow the fingers to heal and report back for printing. Ya, that will fly.
    • by JimBobJoe (2758)

      I believe it is the lye in the tile grout that causes brick/tile layers to have no fingerprints.

  • Maybe their parents sold their fingerprints to support their MMO habits.

  • One of the causes of ppl losing their fingerprints is cancer treatment. I am facing a bone marrow transplant/stem-cell transplant and one of the possible side effects is losing my fingerprints. I am not sure if this is directly from the transplant, or something from the strong chemotherapy I will endure before/during the transplant procedure. Along with my blood DNA being different from the cheek swab test, I will be a walking "CSI episode waiting to happen". Maybe I will just get some stick on fingerpr

    • been there, done that...the fingerprint loss is pretty rare from what I've heard. They told me about it, but mine never even changed temporarily...not that there weren't plenty of other terribly amusing and horrifying side effects for the next year to year and a half. Good luck w/the transplant. I'm ~8 years out and happy I chose the most aggressive options presented to me.

  • I came across this in a novel by L. Neil Smith. In the book, he suggests, through the mouth of one of his characters, that there is no proof (and no way to prove) that everyone's fingerprints are different. At the time I attributed this to his extreme libertarianism. However, in the time since then I have seen numerous reports contending that no one has ever conducted a study to prove that fingerprints are unique to an individual and no references to such a study. Additionally, it appears that the acceptanc
    • I'm not aware that DNA has been proven to be unique, either.

      Of course, fingerprints have been used for over a century, and DNA has been used for a few decades, and I'm not aware of anyone who has credibly argued that they have identified the "wrong" person.

      • by dward90 (1813520)
        It's somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible to "prove" anything that isn't pure mathematics. You can estimate probabilities to within statistically significant bounds (it's 99.999% possible that you are the father of that child, etc.) Proof, as an abstraction, is much more difficult. To prove that DNA is unique, you would need to sequence every human who ever lived, is currently living, or will ever live. Disproof, by contrast, is much easier. You could disprove that DNA is unique with on
    • I would depress the value of testimony given by anyone who claimed some physical trait was "100%". But that said, all things are a matter of odds.

      Assuming your fingerprints do exactly match those of someone else (and not just at 12 points, but everywhere), what are the odds that you live at the same time in history and at the same place as that person, and that you would also be in the area with no credible alibi at the same time the other person was committing a crime? The result need not be 100% - just

      • I will give you that, but I do think that people give way too much credence to the fingerprint evidence that is presented in court.
    • by j-beda (85386)

      Even worse than the lack of evidence of the underlying uniqueness of the fingerprints themselves, I have heard that there are very few studies determining the reliability of fingerprint analysis - even if they are unique, if the technician makes errors you can get false positives.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fingerprint#Validity_of_fingerprinting_for_identification [wikipedia.org]

  • Actually, when I was young, I tended to lose my fingerprints in the winter. I assumed that it had something to do with wearing gloves in the cold weather. All of my fingers would become completely smooth for a couple of months, then as it warmed up, my fingerprints would return.

    I had thought that this might be the key to becoming a successful burglar, but by the time I was old enough to actually become a burglar, my fingerprints no longer disappeared.

  • From the RSS feed headline, I thought this was an article about a James Bond-like spying ring or something. Imagine my disappointment.
  • because it's hard to figure out if this is a favorable mutation or an unfavorable one. TFA said that the condition might have something to do with making it easier for skin cells to fold over each other during fetal development. What might be the consequences of hindering this?

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