Unveiling the Unique: A fingerprint experiment to look at the intricate patterns of identity

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According to research, there are no two identical fingerprints in the world. Not between family members, identical twins, or even on your hands.

Each fingerprint has unique characteristics, which is why there are no two fingerprints that look alike. Factors like the patterns of fingerprints and the details of each line of someone’s fingerprint play into the uniqueness of each fingerprint out there.

Let’s put on our detective hats and look into the world of fingerprints!

How to make the Unveiling the Unique fingerprint science experiment

Supplies you will need

For the Fingerprints experiment, you’ll need:

  • Two sheets of paper
  • Tape
  • A pencil
Supplies needed for the Unveiling the Unique fingerprints science experiment

Before you start

This experiment produces some messy fingers, so be sure to have your child wash their hands right after the experiment (or else you may have some fingerprints all over your house!).

Instructions

Here is how to do this experiment with your child:

Step 1: Trace your hand pattern

Grab a clean piece of paper and place your hand, palm down, on the paper. Be sure to spread your fingers out so it’s easier to distinguish each fingerprint in later steps.

Using a pencil, simply trace the outline of your hand onto the piece of paper.

Placing hand down on the paper and drawing an outline

Step 2: Use a pencil to create the fingerprint pad

On a new piece of paper, turn your pencil sideways and fill in a small section of the paper with it.

I chose to color over the same area several times to ensure I had enough to transfer to my finger.

Make an “ink pad” on a clean piece of paper by turning your pencil sideways and drawing over a spot repeatedly

Step 3: Press your finger into the fingerprint pad

Press your first finger firmly onto the fingerprint pad you created in Step 2. Turn your finger slightly on its sides to cover as much of your finger as possible.

Take a look at your finger before the next step to ensure you have a good amount of pencil transferred onto your finger.

Placing finger down firmly on the “ink pad”

Step 4: Press the sticky side of the tape onto your finger

Cut a small piece of tape (can be 1.5-2 inches long) and place the sticky side of the tape against your pencil-colored finger. Be sure to thoroughly cover your finger to transfer as much of the pencil as possible.

Placing a piece of tape, sticky side down, on the finger

Step 5: Press the piece of tape onto hand drawing

Finally, place the piece of tape, sticky side down, onto the respective finger you used on the hand outline.

Repeat for your other fingers until you have fingerprints for each finger in the hand outline.

Placing the piece of tape onto the respective finger on the hand outline

The science behind the Unveiling the Unique fingerprint experiment

This experiment teaches:

  • Identifying fingerprints on your hands
  • No one has the same fingerprints
  • Fingerprint pattern basics

How it works

In this experiment, we are creating a replica of each of our fingerprints to analyze the differences.

Using a pencil to create a fingerprint pad, we are simply transferring pencil to each of our fingers. Then, using tape, we transfer each finger’s fingerprint over to the hand outline.

This is an easy experiment to look at the uniqueness of each of our fingerprints and talk about how they’re used today.

Identifying fingerprints on your hands

If your child is younger, it’s likely that they haven’t looked closely enough at their fingers to notice the interesting patterns on their fingertips. They probably haven’t thought to look that closely at their fingers!

This experiment is an opportunity to look more closely at the patterns at the ends of our fingers and how they are just one of the many ways we are unique.

No one has the same fingerprints

Speaking of fingerprints being unique: no two people in the world have the same fingerprints. Not even on your own hand!

Research has shown that fingerprints are so unique that not even identical twins have the same fingerprints.

If you look at your hands, you’ll still see that each fingerprint is unique, even if the differences are subtle.

Fingerprint pattern basics

Scientists have narrowed down fingerprint patterns to four main categories: whorl, composite, loop, and arch.

The part of fingerprints that makes each unique comes down to the Galton details, which look at each ridge path along the fingerprint pattern to identify differences.

Those Galton details look at details like if there is a fork in the ridge path, an island, an enclosure, or where the end of the path lies.

These details may be tough to spot but are what makes each of our fingerprints different from the rest.

If you want to read more about what makes each fingerprint unique, here’s a great articleOpens in a new tab..

More experiments that have you looking closely to try out with your child

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