People suffering from Naegeli syndrome and dermatopathia pigmentosa reticularis (DPR) don’t have fingerprints. The conditions are caused by a lack of keratin 14, which stops their bodies both from creating fingerprints and from perspiring normally.
Fingerprint identification was not originally developed in order to figure out who had committed crimes, but to help police figure out whom they had actually arrested. Before fingerprinting, repeat offenders used fake names when caught a second time and were only found out if beat cops, specifically stationed in courtrooms and houses for the purpose, happened to recognise them and expose their real identities.
In 1869, the Habitual Criminals Act required judges to take past crimes into account in passing sentence; this further increased the need to know who was who. Modern fingerprinting arose in colonial India, to give a definitive ‘signature’ on lease agreements. Henry Faulds (1843-1930), a Presbyterian missionary in Japan, published the first article on using fingerprints in criminal investigations in the scientific journal Nature in 1880. He wrote to Charles Darwin, who passed his letter on to his cousin Francis Galton (1822-1911), the father of eugenics, who later developed a system (still in use today) for numbering the ridges on the tips of the fingers, which made fingerprint information easier to use.
New Scientist notes that ‘despite more than a century of use, fingerprinting has never been scientifically validated’ and that ‘some experts argue that fingerprints could be mismatched a shocking 20% of the .’
A Japanese cryptographer named Tsutomo Matsumoto has found that he can fool 80% of fingerprint detectors using a fake finger made of molten Gummy Bears (i.e. gelatine) poured into a mould made from someone's finger.
He can also produce them by using fingerprints photographed off the side of a glass (i.e. with no need to take a mould), with the same rate of success.
Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do'em all together, I guess.
Scientists are investigating the relative length of one’s fingers as an indicator of an individual’s health prospects and innate characteristics. In particular, they are interested in the comparative lengths of a person’s second and fourth fingers, known as ‘the 2D:4D ratio’.
The 2D:4D ratio is known to vary according to how much testosterone a person was exposed to while in the womb. This hormone plays a significant role in our development throughout life, so finger-length ratio can be used to predict a huge number of medical conditions, such as infertility, autism, dyslexia, migraine and stammering. The 2D:4D ratio may even be useful for predicting which preschool children will grow up to be psychopaths.
By measuring men's 2D:4D ratios, one study in Austria claimed to be able to predict to some degree how many sexual partners a man would have, but so far researchers say they are only confident that it applies to heterosexual Austrians. Another study by Professor Marc Breedlove of Michigan State University has shown that gay and straight women have distinctly different 2D:4D finger ratios; and while gay and straight men also showed a difference, although this wasn’t shown to be to a statistically significant degree.
The basis of computer work is predicated on the idea that only the brain makes decisions and only the index finger does the work.
‘Flipping’ the middle finger is probably the oldest rude hand gesture. Reference to it can be found as far back as in The Clouds by Aristophanes around 400 bc, but hand gestures are not universal in their meaning and can lead to serious misunderstandings.
UN soldiers were warned not to show the victory-sign to Serbians, as it was known as an informal ‘hello’ sign among their enemies, the Croats and Bosnians.
‘Thumbs up’ is particularly insulting in Iran, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Sardinia, where it means ‘Sit on my phallus, asshole’, while the rudest gesture in Greece is the moutza where one thrusts an upright, open palm towards one’s enemy – it means ‘eat shit’.
Our various fingers have had unusual names in the past. The index finger was known in Middle English as the ‘toucher’. Anglo Saxons called it the ‘scite’ finger or ‘shooting’ finger. The middle finger was known in Middle English as the ‘longman’ or ‘long finger’, while the ring finger was known as the ‘lec-man’ - literally the leech finger - as it was believed a nerve ran through it straight to the heart. For the same reason the Germans called it the Arztfinger (Doctor's Finger).
The Romans called it the digitus medicinalis and it is also known as the 'doctor’s finger' or 'medical finger' in Greek, Japanese, Korean and Polish. The little finger was known to the Anglo-Saxons as the 'ear finger' as it was the finger used to pick wax out of your ears. It was known in Middle English as the 'little man'.
The muscles that control our fingers are in our forearms, working them remotely like puppets and using tendons as the strings. To see those muscles at work, you only have to try drumming your fingers vigorously on a table and watch the skin on your forearm as it ripples.
There are some small muscles in our hands that have a bit of control over our fingers, but only for spreading them out sideways, for example to make the Vulcan ‘Live Long And Prosper’ sign. There are also thousands of tiny muscles that make your fingers’ hairs stand up or make their blood vessels contract.
In the 17th century, to 'bring up on the finger' meant to hand-rear an animal.
Humans’ hands are unique, not for our opposable thumbs, but for our ability to twist our little and ring fingers in to meet our thumbs.
The longer a man’s fingers are in proportion to his height, the more likely he is to suffer from depression.
The word ‘muscle’ comes from the Latin for ‘little mouse’ because its movement under the skin looks like a little burrowing rodent.
In 2013 Dave Playpenz of Colchester cooked and ate his own little finger after it was amputated following a motorcycle accident.
God is the only character in The Simpsons to have 5 fingers.
J.R.R. Tolkien typed the entire 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy while using only two fingers. It took him 14 years.
The Yuki people used a base 8 system instead of base 10 because they counted not with their fingers, but with the spaces between them.