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Why Some People Don't Have Fingerprints

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the are-they-diabolical-masterminds dept.

Medicine 159

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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What countries? (4, Insightful)

zget (2395308) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:What countries? (1)

QBasicer (781745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998830)

The US requires fingerprints depending on your nationality, I think if you're *NOT* North American, but I could be wrong.

Re:What countries? (5, Funny)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998916)

I'm from the US and i know when i first entered i had to provide my foot prints. I'm not sure if those are on file anywhere other than my mom's house though.

Re:What countries? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999418)

Funny, I wish I haven't spent all of my mod points on that Juniper Lego post :)

Re:What countries? (2)

edjs (1043612) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998838)

Japan and the US, though the US doesn't require it of visitors from certain nations.

Re:What countries? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998936)

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?

Re:What countries? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999204)

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 hang on better, quite literally).

Re:What countries? (1)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999492)

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?

Re:What countries? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999762)

If sweat helped you to grip better, climbers and gymnasts wouldn't use chalk.

Re:What countries? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37000012)

Some sweat (i.e. being a tiny bit damp). Lots of sweat, no, then it starts slipping.

Re:What countries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36998844)

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.

Well, the land of the free of course... USA requires finger prints on entry.

Re:What countries? (1)

j-pimp (177072) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998846)

To actually immigrate (for working) to the US you do.

Re:What countries? (1)

ibib (464750) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998850)

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

Re:What countries? (2)

kinkydiver (2430492) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998930)

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....

Re:What countries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36998996)

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....

Well, then you don't have to suffer from adermatoglyphia to be certain that you didn't leave a fingerprint on it.

Re:What countries? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999060)

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)

Re:What countries? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999984)

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.

Re:What countries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36998872)

Try to go to the US. They scan your whole hand...
And only therefore, US citizens ( and only US citizens) must have their fingerprint scanned when entering in Brazil.

Re:What countries? (1)

Chang (2714) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998960)

Malaysia and Japan also fingerprint visitors

Re:What countries? (2)

zget (2395308) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998984)

I went to Malaysia last year, didn't fingerprint from me at least.

Re:What countries? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999852)

Reminds me of this:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8400222.stm [bbc.co.uk]

A Chinese woman managed to enter Japan illegally by having plastic surgery to alter her fingerprints, thus fooling immigration controls, police claim.

Re:What countries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999126)

I think that US citizens no longer have to be fingerprinting when entering Brazil.

It was an injunction from a disgruntled and overtly nationalistic judge, the Federal Police never thought it was worth the hassle, despite the fact that Brazilian visa and entry requirements are based on the "reciprocity" concept.

Re:What countries? (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998876)

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.

Re:What countries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999084)

US requires fingerprints even if you vist it for couple of weeks as a tourist. Nice government/country. Not.

Re:What countries? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999160)

Yep I can confirm this. Got an SSSS treatment on the way out as a parting gift.

Re:What countries? (1)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999576)

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 within the U.S., included the usual of taking off shoes, personal items go in a bucket, laptop out of bag, metal scanner. At DC I was additionally guided through an x-ray backscatter machine and had to fill out a little form (which was presented to me in the city from which my flight originated) which required me to fill in flight information, seat number, and full name, and optionally some emergency contact. The airlines of course already have this information but I'm guessing some left-over of privacy laws makes it so they can't hand this over to Uncle Sam, so filling out a separate form it is.

All in all, a hassle.. enough to make my eyes roll, but unfortunately I don't have the option of not going to the U.S., so I guess it's waiting to see if they finally end up crossing my personal line, or whether TSA gets reigned in.

Re:What countries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999940)

And all that is why I have refused to visit America since it was brought in.

Re:What countries? (0)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998958)

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

Re:What countries? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999000)

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?

Re:What countries? (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999134)

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.

Re:What countries? (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999416)

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.

Re:What countries? (0)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999508)

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 government.
If you try to protect your freedom by tight restrictions who goes out and in and what they do, then you lost your freedom as you need big daddy to give the stamp of approval for whatever you do.

If you prevent people from doing stupid things you prevent them from doing ingenious ones too.
If you open the do for people to do what they want too many stupid things will happen hindering the ability for the ingenious things to flourish.

Over Tax the rich, the rich have the resources to move away with all their money and their investments.
Under Tax the rich, we loose an important revenue stream which can go to making solid improvements.

Allow full Religious freedom, then you will get a lot of crazy religions made up to allow anti-social things.
Restrict Religious freedom, then you get a population doing a lot of underground activities, which will lead to additional illegal activities, as well loss of a lot of organizations who do a lot of work to help the community.

So think before you say X political party is stupid and absolutely corrupt. Because I am sure your party is just as stupid and corrupt.

Re:What countries? (1)

bkpark (1253468) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999028)

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 ...

Re:What countries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999242)

Yes, also to enter. At least if you're from outside of North America (Europe for example).

Re:What countries? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999346)

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.

Re:What countries? (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999064)

Re:What countries? (2)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999480)

And she is a waste of skin, just like her brother.

Re:What countries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999156)

Even if it's not a requirement, there have been a few serious criminals who removed their fingerprints (I recall one method involving acid) so I'm sure that it'd raise a bunch of red flags if they noticed it.

Re:What countries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999178)

You didn't get fingerprinted for your passport application?

Re:What countries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999404)

Unless you are a citizen or permanent resident, the USA requires a full hand print to enter. Nothing says welcome to America like "please place your hand on the scanner".

America of course (1)

Snaller (147050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999960)

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.

Useful applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36998836)

These researchers, curiously, are being sponsored by the CIA.

Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998864)

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.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36998920)

But it leaves no way to identify with commonly used equipment, including police equipment for latent fingerprints. There's a clean lady in my work that doesn't have fingerprints and it generates a few problem with our biometric doors (it refuses her entry, or even to scan her - someone must open the door or she can't get in).

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999024)

This is why biometrics are stupid. Not ALL humans have thumbs, retinas, etc. All humans that need access to perform tasks have minds that can store information.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999190)

But all humans have brains. Oh wait, nevermind.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999742)

The iris scan ones aren't so bad for many things.

They don't work for those completely without eyes (note: many blind people still have eyes), but for many things eyes are already a prerequisite.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36998962)

Yeah, but how many forensics techs are even aware of this condition, let alone actively looking for the right signs?

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36998964)

Actually, the skin at the fingertips heals quite well, and fairly fast. Check your own, you will see that yours are likely quite intact. What they leave behind is a small smudge that is very difficult to distinguish from a smudge of any other type. It does not actually make them any easier to identify, as their smudges are not distinct enough to compare with certainty.

What they also may leave behind in that smudge of personal oil are a few(very few) skin cells. Newer techniques for DNA identification can be done with only a few cells, and thus, the culprit can be determined.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999618)

Actually, the skin at the fingertips heals quite well, and fairly fast.

Which is a problem in itself. My fingerprints change so much that I have had to recalibrate on two different fingerprint scanners multiple times over the last few years. Especially if I cut myself and they need to heal, but even if I don't, they change.
Perhaps some of us have an opposite condition to what TFA talks about, but with apposite results?

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

Rhywden (1940872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998978)

I disagree. I myself have been "several years on this world" and my finger tips are certainly blemish free.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999194)

Mine aren't but it does take a lot of damage. Even deep cuts heal well, but really bad burns not so much.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

Rhywden (1940872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999238)

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.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999372)

Well, 40-odd years after I cut my finger with an X-Acto knife (plenty of blood, but healed cleanly), I can still see the curved scar on my finger tip.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999658)

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.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999664)

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..

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999096)

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.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999180)

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.

Re:Still, they must leave prints of some sort. (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999376)

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.

Please, researchers (2)

bythescruff (522831) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998928)

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

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

Re:Please, researchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999058)

It's obviously a mutation caused by Global Warming. This is just more proof that it is caused by man.

Re:Please, researchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999284)

have you tried reading the article? The link to the abstract is right in the summary. If you need more details than that, read the whole article, although you would have to either pay for it, or request a copy through a library.

Can you say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36998954)

...natural born killers?
www.awkardengineer.com [awkwardengineer.com]

It's more complicated (3, Interesting)

dtmos (447842) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:It's more complicated (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999116)

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.

Re:It's more complicated (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999366)

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

Re:It's more complicated (1)

SeeSp0tRun (1270464) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999474)

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

Re:It's more complicated (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999546)

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.

Re:It's more complicated (0)

Chysn (898420) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999620)

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

Why, aren't you just adorable!

Re:It's more complicated (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999240)

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.

Re:It's more complicated (1)

SeeSp0tRun (1270464) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999488)

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.

Warts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999050)

What if you have a wart on one of your finger the first time you enter and you had it remove the second time you enter. Will you get immigration delay for surgically removing an identification element from your body?

Because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999122)

Because Anonymous deleted them.

Ba doomp, ching!

You mean besides the obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999128)

Now there's no such thing as a person without a fingerprint. *puts on sunglasses*.

If everyone will just look this way *flash*

Re:You mean besides the obvious? (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999560)

Well played, sir.

I don't have fingerprints. (1)

Albert Sandberg (315235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999130)

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 :-)

Re:I don't have fingerprints. (1)

karcirate (1685354) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999172)

Where do you live that you need fingerprints for a passport?

Re:I don't have fingerprints. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999314)

Basically anywhere if you want to visit the USA or Japan

Re:I don't have fingerprints. (1)

superdave80 (1226592) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999324)

Where do you live that you think a fingerprint for your passport is unusual?

Re:I don't have fingerprints. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999394)

I'm American, currently live in the US and I've NEVER had to give fingerprints for a passport.

Re:I don't have fingerprints. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999794)

The stereotypical american never needs a passport.

Might not even leave the trailer park ;).

Re:I don't have fingerprints. (3, Informative)

indeterminator (1829904) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999328)

In EU. The fingerprints are stored on an RFID chip. It's the only kind of passport you can get around here.

Re:I don't have fingerprints. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999334)

Well, thanks to the United States of Derpmerica, most countries now need to issue biometric passports, as a lot of their citizens travel to the Derpnited States, and the Derps require a biometric passport because of TEH TERRORIZTS!

So yes, a lot of countries now require biometrics to issue a passport, and all because a couple of building fell down.

Re:I don't have fingerprints. (1)

Aighearach (97333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999592)

You were obviously born with double-herped fingers.

Re:I don't have fingerprints. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999484)

USA requires passports with fingerprints from people from countries that participate in the visa waiver program. I had a valid passport, but I applied for a new "biometric" one to visit USA without a visa.

Re:I don't have fingerprints. (1)

sp0tter (1456139) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999524)

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.

Alternate theory (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999174)

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

Cancer treatment (1)

technoid_ (136914) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999196)

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 fingerprints like in "Gone in 60 seconds". Elvis Lives!

technoid_

Re:Cancer treatment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999466)

There is already a CSI episode where a man has different DNAs in his body. The CSI Team had difficulties finding the killer because the DNA from the semen didn't match the DNA from the cheek swab. The rapist just walked around rapin' women and laughing at CSI. Finally the wise man with the beard read in a book about the solution.

It is called a "Chimera".

It usually happens when two eggs (read: two different DNAs) merge together to form one embryo. You are probably "your own not identical twin". Maybe you have even two different skin tones or something?

Posting AC because back in the days we didn't need no account to communicate on the interbutts.

Is there any proof that fingerprints are unique? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999276)

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 acceptance of fingerprints as a means of identification came about by appeal to authority, rather than from any actual evidence as to the validity of such identification.
It seems likely to me that each person's fingerprints (those that have them) are unique. However, considering the evidence I have seen regarding how questionable the identification of individuals from fingerprints lifted at the scene (whatever scene that happens to be) by fingerprint experts has proven to be, on the occassions it has tested in a scientific manner, dubious at best.

Re:Is there any proof that fingerprints are unique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999392)

Doubtful that you could prove they are unique, or that it would be a useful statement.
 
You could prove something about probability of two (possibly random) individuals having similar enough prints that they would be matched falsely when compared to some tolerance though...which I believe (from watching TV) is how DNA evidence is used.

Re:Is there any proof that fingerprints are unique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999424)

How would you ever prove this?

No people have the same fingerprints...until we find some that do.

Re:Is there any proof that fingerprints are unique (1)

John Bresnahan (638668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999506)

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.

Re:Is there any proof that fingerprints are unique (1)

dward90 (1813520) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999932)

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 only 2 people (though it's very unlikely).

Re:Is there any proof that fingerprints are unique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999644)

I'm in the biometrics industry.

Supposedly, fingerprints patterns are formed by a non-linear - chaotic, but deterministic - process. The condition for having two equal finger prints would have the initial conditions (ie, the fetus condition) to be identical with infinite precision. Even minor variations in the initial conditions will lead to widely different results. Look up for "deterministic chaos".

I can't find a reference for the finger prints being generated by a chaotic process, it seems I lost or lent someone the book with this. If I find a reference when I get back home, I'll update this.

Re:Is there any proof that fingerprints are unique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999754)

Finger prints are more "unique" that most other distinguishing features.

For example if a witness said a criminal was a 5'9" tall male with average build, and short brown hair; police could find lots of people who meet that description. If the find a good finger print, they're more likely to only find one person that matches it.

From what I've heard, they don't usually compare finger prints line by line. Instead they look at the points where the lines curve and use that to create numerical values. Lots of people can have one point that is similar, but each point you consider eliminates a percentage of people. If you compare enough points, then the odds of a false positive approach zero.

It's sort of like if you have a checksum for a file. Many files will have the same digit in the first position, as you match more digits the it's more likely that the checksum goes with a particular file.

Re:Is there any proof that fingerprints are unique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999846)

It's worse than that in that the way they test fingerprints is to look at key points, the structure of the whorls and such on them. That's like taking a bunch of hashes and then only storing information about where characters are repeated and how far apart the repeat sections are to claim the hashes are "probably" the same.

Re:Is there any proof that fingerprints are unique (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999882)

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 "beyond reasonable doubt" - so even though I wouldn't believe the 100% argument, I could still conceivably convict someone based on such evidence.

I sometimes lose my fingerprints (1)

John Bresnahan (638668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999574)

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.

Isn't it obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999774)

They are TERRISTS, that's why!

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