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The Science Of Fingerprints {with Doc Hibbel from Sassafras Science}

September 29, 2015 3 min read

The Science of Fingerprints {Doc Hibbel}

Those of you who have finished our anatomy leg will remember Doc Hibbel and his “Hide-a-Chap” Balm. That stuff still works great!

For those of you who haven’t gotten there yet, I promise we won’t spoil what happened as we traveled with him for the Wind Tower 100 race!

Anywhoo, we asked Doc Hibbel to come back today and share about fingerprints with you folks. We did learn a bit about them in the race, but we thought it would be nice to have him come back and share some more.

Let’s hear what the Doc has to say…

Psst…I’ve added an activity and printable for y’all to use at the end, so be sure not to miss it!

The Science Of Fingerprints

Howdy SassySci folks! Doc Hibbel here to share a bit more about fingerprints.

During the Wind Tower 100, I shared with Blaine and Tracey how the skin on your fingers, toes, palms of your hands and soles of your feet is folded into tiny ridges. These ridges form swirling patterns, that help your hands and feet grip things like your most recent can of Hide-a-Chap Balm.

There are three main features that can be found in these ridges – arches, whorls, and loops. Arches, surprisingly enough, look like arches in the middle of a whole bunch of lines. Whorls look like a whirlpool is sucking down some of your ridge lines. And loops look like a few of your ridge lines decided to double back and look for a traitor!

But the special thing about them ridge lines and features are that they are unique to each person. The tips of every one of the fingers on your hand have a combination of these lines and features in distinctive patterns we call fingerprints. Ain’t no one else in the world that has the same set of fingerprints as you do!

So, all kinds of folks can use them to help identify the marks you leave behind. You see as you grab things, those ridges trap oil and dirt residues. This residue can then be deposited elsewhere when you touch something, leaving behind an image of your fingerprint.

And that, my friends, is a bit about the science of fingerprints!

Sassafras Wrap-Up

Wow, I don’t know whether to be grossed out or amazed! Thank you Doc Hibbel for sharing about fingerprints.

Now that you all understand what fingerprints are, I thought it would be fun to share how you can analyze your own! You will need paper, magnifying glass, and stamp ink for this project. This free fingerprint printable will work perfectly for the paper.

First you need to press a fingers against the ink pad and then against a piece of paper. Then, use the magnifying glass to examine their fingerprints, looking for arches, whorls, and loops. You can record what you find on your paper. Here’s an infograph for you visual/pinning peeps:

Learn more about fingerprints.

Then, rinse and repeat with your next finger until you run out of patience or fingers! BTW, if you don’t have stamp ink, just scribble a dark patch on a piece of paper with a pencil. Then, press your finger into the patch and wah-la!

Here’s a few more activities you can do with your fingerprints:

Have a blast as you smudge, swipe, and print your way to learning about the science of fingerprints!

Doc Hibbel



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