Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Medicine Science

Scientists Wonder What Fingerprints Are For 347

Hugh Pickens writes "The BBC reports that scientists say they have disproved the theory that fingerprints improve grip by increasing friction between people's fingers and the surface they are holding. Dr Roland Ennos designed a machine which enabled him to measure the amount of friction generated by a fingerprint when it was in contact with an acrylic glass at varying levels of pressure. The results showed that friction levels increased by a much smaller amount than had been anticipated, debunking the hypothesis that fingerprints provide an improved grip. Ennos believes that fingerprints may have evolved to grip onto rough surfaces, like tree bark; the ridges may allow our skin to stretch and deform more easily, protecting it from damage; or they may allow water trapped between our finger pads and the surface to drain away and improve surface contact in wet conditions. Other researchers have suggested that the ridges could increase our fingerpads' touch sensitivity."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scientists Wonder What Fingerprints Are For

Comments Filter:
  • by Joebert ( 946227 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @08:41AM (#28325939) Homepage
    They use auto-balancing centrifuges.
  • tactile sensation (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 14, 2009 @08:44AM (#28325949)

    There is a fair amount of evidence that they increase tactile sensitivity. We have nerves that are sensitive to specific vibrational frequencies. As fingerprints run over edges, then generate vibrations at frequencies we have maximal sensitivity for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 14, 2009 @09:12AM (#28326055)

    The USA's National Public Radio show, "Science Friday" discussed this:


    The show talks about this result, and reveals that New world monkeys have similarly ridged
    skin on the gripping side of their tails. Touch sensitivity, and resistance to blistering are
    posited as potential answers.

  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Sunday June 14, 2009 @09:17AM (#28326079)

    Why do they have to be for something?
    Evolution does not forbid random things, that are neither bad nor good for something.

    Sometimes, humans try too much, to fit things into the artificial set of meta-rules that they did create, to describe the complex results of more basic and emergent rules. But those meta-rules have their own artifacts, that are not present in the basic rules and therefore are not present in the world. Like there having to be a "reason" for everything. A human concept that should describe causality, but adds something more to it, which does not exist in reality.

    Other than that, it is obvious, that they enhance the grip, even in situations with liquids.

  • Re:Primates (Score:4, Informative)

    by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @10:58AM (#28326567) Homepage

    Not really. Survival of the fittest means survival of those most able to have lots of children, and that's as valid now as it has ever been.

  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @11:54AM (#28326841) Homepage

    Most atheists explain it as "I won't believe until I see proof of it", though, which is very much scientific.

  • Re:Primates (Score:4, Informative)

    by linguizic ( 806996 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @01:17PM (#28327393)
    It depends on what scale you're looking at []. Neutral Theory says that MOST mutations are neither beneficial nor harmful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 14, 2009 @01:19PM (#28327399)

    Of course. And "I believe there are no pink unicorns" is equally a statement of faith using your logic.

  • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @02:12PM (#28327727)

    <quote>quote goes here</quote>

    If you copy and paste that you'll get this:

    quote goes here

    You can also do <b>bold</b>, <i>italic</i>, and a few other basic things:

    You can also do bold, italic, and a few other basic things.

  • by Planesdragon ( 210349 ) <slashdot.castlesteelstone@us> on Sunday June 14, 2009 @02:19PM (#28327767) Homepage Journal

    That's an interesting question, and now that you mention it, I'm one of those, whatever they are. "Atheism" does actually mean "without gods", NOT "anti-gods".

    Atheism has its ROOTS in foreign words that roughly translate as "without gods." But it doesn't mean that any more than "Pagan" means "woodland religion."

    Atheism: A religious creed that posits that there are neither God nor Gods, nor any supernatural entity.

    Agnosticism: A religious creed that posits the existance or non-existance of the divine is beyond its members knowledge.

    Pagan: Any religious creed that posits a belief in a God or Gods other than that described by the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions.

    Neo-Pagan: A reliigous creed that asserts belief in many gods, supposedly with its basis in pre-Christian Europe.

    Aside from "Pagan", all three are relatively modern inventions, each younger as a viable religion than the United States of America.

  • by osu-neko ( 2604 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @02:21PM (#28327789)
    Even without errors in copying the genetic code, people get unique finger prints. The overall pattern and general style will end up the same, but they're still unique, even between twins with identical DNA. Reminds me of the markings on the cloned cat. The clone was a calico, just like the original, but that seemly random pattern in a calico's fur? Turns out, it actually is somewhat random. Identical DNA doesn't produce identical fingerprints either...
  • Re:Primates (Score:1, Informative)

    by executivechaos ( 1576131 ) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @11:12PM (#28331399)
    Of course they don't ask why people have unique finger prints

    The passing over of amniotic fluid inside the womb, over a fetus determines fingerprint array during fetal development.

    Each mother will of course...swash amniotic fluid differently over each fetus.

    This has been researched and shown.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:11AM (#28331755)

    I take issue with the folks that ask why do fingerprints have to do anything. Even if they were ever a "neutral" mutation. Nature has an insidious habit of stumbling into situations where they do provide a benefit. They have been preserved, even have flourished. We have them and we will find more uses for them. It's like "junk" DNA. If we ask the right question we find this stuff that does not transcribe still plays an important role in the way genes are expressed.

  • Re:Primates (Score:3, Informative)

    by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:47AM (#28332739) Homepage Journal

    Trust me, you will enjoy your regular mutt a lot more, and he'll be happier too, if you get the master-and-dog relationship right :)

Loan-department manager: "There isn't any fine print. At these interest rates, we don't need it."