Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why do we have fingerprints? It's (probably) not what you think.

Why did humans evolve fingerprints? Ask (almost) anyone, and they'd probably tell you it's friction. Fingerprints increase the surface area on your finger tips, which would naturally increase friction, making it easier for people to grip things. But no. According to a Manchester University study, finger prints actually decrease surface area and decreases friction (on smooth surfaces). (Science Friday)

So what are fingerprints doing on our fingers, the fingers of other primates, Koala bears and the tails of South American primates? It probably has something to do with climbing around in trees. And fingerprints may increase friction on rough surfaces (like branches), but more tests are needed.

But if tests show fingerprints do not increase friction on rough surfaces? The University of Manchester's Roland Ennos suggests fingerprints protect from blisters.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.