What Are Fingerprints?
A fingerprint is merely a record of the pattern of a person’s finger. Look at the tips of your fingers. Do you see the loops and swirls the tiny ridges of skin make? These ridges form your fingerprint patterns.
Each of your fingerprint patterns is a little different from the others, and they are different from everybody else’s in the world. They get bigger as you grow. But otherwise they remain unchanged throughout your life.
Fingerprinting is one form of biometrics, a science that uses people’s physical characteristics to identify them. Fingerprints are ideal for this purpose because they’re inexpensive to collect and analyze, and they never change, even as people age.
Fingerprints are made of an arrangement of ridges, called friction ridges. Each ridge contains pores, which are attached to sweat glands under the skin. You leave fingerprints on glasses, tables and just about anything else you touch because of this sweat.
All of the ridges of fingerprints form patterns called loops, whorls or arches. Loops begin on one side of the finger, curve around or upward, and exit the other side.
There are two types of loops: Radial loops slope toward the thumb, while ulnar loops slope toward the little finger.
Whorls form a circular or spiral pattern. Arches slope upward and then down, like very narrow mountains.
Scientists look at the arrangement, shape, size and number of lines in these fingerprint patterns to distinguish one from another. They also analyze very tiny characteristics called minutiae, which can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Although hands and feet have many ridged areas ¬that could be used for identification, fingerprints became a popular form of biometrics because they are easy to classify and sort. They’re also accessible.
It is easy to make a fingerprint. All you have to do is to press your finger on an inked pad and then onto a piece of white paper.