Information for a science fair project on fingerprinting fingerprints

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Information for a science fair project on fingerprinting fingerprints
As a person ages, fingerprints change size but not shape. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

The imprint left by the ridge patterns on the pads of fingers is known as a fingerprint. Some believe that these ridges evolved to provide traction for picking up objects. Fingerprints are also believed to be inherited because no two humans have been found to share an identical fingerprint. Science fair projects on fingerprints can revolve around the process of creating and recovering fingerprints, classifying fingerprint types and testing the uniqueness of fingerprints.

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Creating Fingerprints

Fingerprinting methods can range from rudimentary processes to digital fingerprint scanners. Simple experiments can use the graphite from pencil tips. Rub a pencil against white paper and then rub your finger in the graphite. Use tape to remove the graphite from your finger. Tape your fingerprint to paper. You can also use a black ink pad to press your fingertips on the pad and roll them on index cards. Conduct experiments with fingerprint scanner locks to test their effectiveness. Copy your fingerprint on latex and then mask your thumb with it. Can you break the lock? Try fooling the scanner with a photograph or photocopy of your fingerprint.

Recovering Fingerprints

Use various methods to recover fingerprints from surfaces, including bi-chromatic powder, magnetic powder, white powder, fluorescent powder, Ninhydrin solution, a glue fuming or a dye stain process. Test each of these processes of recovering fingerprints from a single surface, such as glass. Which process is most effective? Reverse the variables by using one type of fingerprint recovery process, such as the commonly used bi-chromatic powder, but change the surfaces tested. For example, use the bi-chromatic powder to recover fingerprints from a piece of plastic, unvarnished wood, painted wood, a soda can and a window pane. Determine what surface delivers the best fingerprint. Alter the environmental conditions during the recovery process. Use bi-chromatic powder to recover fingerprints from a glass bottle that's been heated, frozen or sprayed with water.

Classifying Fingerprints

The three most common fingerprint patterns are the loop, the whorl and the arch. The loop enters from the left or right, recurves and passes out of the side of entry. The whorl exhibits circular ridges. The arch pattern rises in the centre and passes out on the opposite side of entry. Use experimental probability to create a science fair project on the frequency with which certain patterns arise in sample populations. Matching fingerprints may encompass more complex classification. Forensic scientists search for additional features of fingerprint ridges, such as eyes, dots, forks and bridges. Conduct an experiment in which you collect several samples of one type of fingerprint pattern, such as the loop. Determine the other features of a fingerprint that can be used to distinguish one loop pattern from another.

Testing if Fingerprints Reflect Heredity

Take the fingerprints of at least 15 sibling pairs and 15 unrelated pairs. Record the fingerprint category, such as loop, arch and whorl, of each fingerprint in a table. Add a column to your data table that reflects whether the fingerprint types of each pair match or not. Calculate and compare the percentages of sibling pairs and unrelated pairs that match. Determine if your data points to the conclusion that fingerprints are genetic traits. Expand on the experiment by taking prints of all 10 fingers of your subjects, or taking toe prints.

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