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Fingerprinting: Can we invent a way to classify fingerprints?

Concepts:
Many areas of scientific study involve the collection of large amounts of data. Such data must be
organised in order to be useful.
The organisation of large amounts of data may become a systems of classification. For instance, the
millions of species on planet Earth are classified according to their similarities and differences.

Facts about fingerprints:


The patterns of the ridges on our finger tips are unique: no two people - even identical twins - have
fingerprints that are exactly alike.
We leave copies (our fingerprints) on everything we touch with any pressure.
The prints can be easily visible, if our fingers are dirty or oily, or they can be 'hidden', if they are made
only by the sweat that is always present on our finger ridges.
Injuries will not change the patterns: when new skin grows, the same pattern will come back.
Dactyloscopy is the practice of using fingerprints to identify someone.
Principles:
Fingerprints can be classified by pattern types, by the size of those patterns, and by the position of the
patterns on the finger. The best known system for classifying fingerprints is known as the Henry
classification (see images above).
Materials:
1. 1 or 2 pages in your notebook, with the names of everyone in the class written down and sufficient
space to stick down a fingerprint beside the name and write a few short notes;
2. another piece of paper or card to copy fingerprints;
3. pencil (HB or 2B or 4B) and a sharpener;
4. transparent tape - wide enough to collect a full fingerprint;
5. good lighting;
6. hand magnifiersnice to have but not essential.
Method:
This is a simple and cheap method to collect fingerprints:
1. Use a pencil sharpener to create graphite powder from an HB, B or 2B pencil.
2. Rub or drop the powder all over a small area of paper to make an ink pad.
3. Press the index finger onto the area of graphite powder to collect the powder on the finger.
4. Cover the area on the finger which was pressed into the graphite with transparent Scotch tape.
5. Lift the copy of the print from the finger and stick the tape into your notebooks beside its owner's name.
6. Collect prints from the whole class, including your own.
Examine the prints and see whether you can divide them into three of four similar groups. (This may not be easy
with such small numbers in the class!) Look at the images at the top of this page to help you. Draw the essential
pattern of each of these 3 (or 4) groups, and give each a suitable name. (You can use the names above.)
Under each of the 3 (or 4) drawings, list the students who have finger prints similar to the patterns you have
drawn.
Then decide how to differentiate the prints of each of the student in each group. Beside each name, write the
classification group you have decided, as well as those specific features which help to differentiate the prints.

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