|T H E N I H C A T A L Y S T||N O V E M B E R D E C E M B E R 2003|
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DIGIT DESIGNS: AN EXPERIMENT WITH FINGERPRINTS
FWere all born with them, we know theyre used to catch criminals, but how much do we really know about fingerprints? With this experiment, you will learn more about fingerprints, including their differences and frequency, and amaze your classmates, all while doing a science project!
Fingerprinting your entire class isnt time-consuming or messy at all.
All that you need are:
A roll of large, clear packing tape
Dark construction paper, cut into 3 x 5 sections, enough for two cards per person
Ask your classmates to rub their hands in a little bit of baby powder. (Your teacher will thank youthe science room will smell great!) Then carefully remove a 6" section of the clear tape from the roll, making sure not to put any smudges anywhere. Put the tape sticky-side up on a flat surface, and have your classmates roll each powdered finger on the tape. You will see beautiful fingerprints!
Then put the fingerprinted tape on the dark card. The fingerprints show up even better! Have your classmates repeat the process with the other hand, and write their names on each of the cards. All of the prints will be different (even if you have twins in the class?), but will fall into three major categories (check out the pictures): loop, whorl, and arch. Whorls look like a tornado, arches look like a hill, and loops look like a mountain.
Now, to the analysis. Write the name of each classmate down the left side of a piece of paper. Across the top write loop, whorl, and arch. Now count the number of loops each person has and write it down in the appropriate box. Is one pattern more frequent than another? Now, within each persons set of fingerprints, are almost all of them one pattern, but one is different? If you figure it out, please write!
For more information on fingerprint analysis and forensic science, visit this website. (What does "dermatoglyphics" mean?) Or, for a really fun site dealing with all things criminal, visit a kids page that is definitely not just for kids:
Now go print!
Jennifer White, NIGMS
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