Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Unique Fingerprint
Name: Larry Z.
Status: other
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001


Question:
Questions on finger prints:

Assuming that the population of the earth is 5.6 billion, and each person has 10 fingers. If only about 70 million have ever been finger printed, is that, mathematically speaking, really a large enough sampling to make the statement "NO TWO FINGER PRINTS ARE THE SAME", with absolution?


Replies:
Hi Larry!

Let us speak a little about fingerprints...There are 3 basic fingerprints patterns that are called Loops,Arches and Whorls and everyone falls into one of these patterns. Beside this, within these patterns are what we call minutia points. There are about thirty different types of these minutae points and never were found 2 people with the same minutae in the same number and in the same places on their fingertips. They are formed genetically before each person is born, and never change through his (her) lifetime, being formed underneath the skin in a layer called dermal papilae. So since fingertips consist of a complex combination of very specific patterns, where size, location and number are also variables, it is possible to affirm that they are unique, so there are no fingerprints equal, even in genetic twins.

Of course that is an affirmation based on statistics and no one has ever collected and compared all the fingerprints of all the humans from the beginning of humanity and also up to the extinction of this Homo Sapiens species.

However nowadays there are other methods for a unique discrimination of a human, as DNA, and the iris pattern analysis. But the main problem found by the scientists that exam fingerprints toward a unique identification is mainly the difficulty in collecting and reproducing fingerprints patterns usually for identification of criminals. There could easily happen errors that could led to wrong identifications.

Thanks for the quite interesting question!

Mabel
(Dr. Mabel Rodrigues)


I suggest you read the works of the mathematician Karl Popper...(spelling unsure) who had very sound arguments along that line. Inductive logic...how about...all stars of a certain mass will become red giants...there are trillions of stars?

Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Assistant Director
Science Education
Office of Science
Department of Energy



Click here to return to the General Topics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory