Just how Unique is Unique?

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My fingerprints are all over the keyboard that typed these words.

Your fingerprints are on the mouse that’s scrolling them.

Both sets are different.

Right?

Of course it’s right, if you accept the idea we’ve all been told, many times over, that no one who’s currently living, has ever lived or will be born in the future will ever have the exact same fingerprints as us?

But what if you don’t accept that notion?

What if that idea is really a bunch of pink-cinnamon-lip-gloss-flavoured-old-school- codswallop perpetuated by the same people who told us an apple a day keeps the           doctor away, you get warts from touching toads and frogs and sharks don’t get cancer.

As is pointed out in this clip from the ‘ol tv series NUMBERS (2005 -2010) unless you were to take the fingerprints of every person who is currently alive today (7.7 billion) plus the fingerprints of every person who has EVER lived but is NOT alive today (estimated to be a little in excess of 100 billion people) you can’t say you categorically ‘KNOW’ that no two people have the same identical fingerprints.

That’s why when experts state they have a DNA match they don’t say it’s a certainty but rather reword things to state more cautiously that, for example, there’s a one in three million chance that the DNA samples are NOT from the same person.

Naturally arguments along these lines that contend a person is prevented from stating something as impossible unless they have checked every single existing specimen that is living or has ever lived to see if it might in fact be possible are plainly ridiculous. Science more often than not arrives at not facts but what, to be fair, must be labelled assumptions (though these ‘assumptions’  are about as air-tight and scrupulously investigated as are any likely to ever be).

We are told the distance between the Earth and the Sun is 149.6 million km’s. But since no person has ever boarded a space ship, set the odometer to zero and then travelled the distance to measure it, how do we KNOW it’s 149.6 kilometres? For that matter how does the average person KNOW the Earth is not flat?

The answer is we don’t.

Instead we rely on armies of scientists from every country on Earth whose life work is to use super-sophisticated instruments based on empirical measurements  to make  calculated estimates based on scale. (FYI, and so I may appear mildly intelligent,  in the case of interplanetary distances, astro-scientists transmit a radar signal at another planet (or moon or asteroid) and measure how long it takes for the radar echo to return)

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The same mischief-making argument can be applied to poke holes in the adage that says no two snowflakes are alike. How do scientists actually KNOW that to be true unless they’ve personally examined every single snowflake that’s ever fallen to Earth? (Here I go again attempting to pass myself off as some super intelligent being  but apparently there’s estimated to be one septillion – that’s a trillion trillion – snowflakes that fall from the skies every year).

According to Jon Nelson, a physicist and formerly assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona, Tucson, there are this many possible snowflake shapes – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,00 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000.

That’s a one followed by 768 zeros making the chances of finding two identical snowflakes not good.

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There was actually a scientist who claimed back in 1988 to have found two identical snowflakes. Nancy Knight, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado was studying wispy high altitude cirrus clouds. Her research plane was collecting snowflakes on a chilled glass slide that was coated with a sticky oil.

She found two hollow hexagonal prism shaped snowflakes in a Wisconsin snowstorm that she claimed were identical. The news made headlines around the world at the time. Closer examination under a microscope revealed in fact the snowflakes were not identical but rather amazingly similar.

So for the moment at least in the absence of any evidence to the contrary I’ll be sticking to the beliefs that hold fingerprints are indeed unique and that no two snowflakes are identical.

Old school I know.

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Ps. On a contrasting but not entirely unrelated note,  you may have heard there’s a new KEANU REEVES movie doing the rounds. It’s called REPLICAS and features a pretty ‘out there’ plot line.

Reeves’ character is a researcher at a biotech firm who suffers a tragedy when his wife and three children are killed in a car accident. After carefully laying out the dead bodies on the side of the road, he calls not the police but rather a co-worker at the biotech firm. Together the two of them go about  preserving his family’s neural maps, cloning their bodies, and re-imprinting their memories into the clones.

But this being a sci-fi film centred around freaky experiments you know things are bound to go wrong. And they do.

And just so you know, these are my favourite six Keanu films

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17 thoughts on “Just how Unique is Unique?

  1. Glen, I agree that we don’t KNOW that each fingerprint is unique so I agree that the best we can do at the present time is accept the general idea of uniqueness – otherwise we could get our brains in a real twist.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh Glen, yet another fascinating read… where on Earth do you source this stuff??? I too am a Keanu lover, Speed being perhaps my all time fave of his movies. I also enjoyed Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure way back when…
    This new movie sounds like it may have appealed to Keanu for its similar storyline to his own tragic loss… correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t he lose his pregnant girlfriend in a freak accident???

    Liked by 2 people

    • I never knew this Shannon.
      You are right though.
      Eighteen years ago back in April 2001 Keanu’s girlfriend at the time, Jennifer Syme, died in a car accident while coming home from a party thrown by rocker Marilyn Manson.

      On a seperate note Shannon, I’ve left a comment on your most recent thought-provoking blog re Australia Day. Also not sure if you saw a comment left back on January 9th on MIDDLE AGED ??
      Comments are the one of the funnest parts I find!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Well, in the rush of the thrill of Friday night and all it represents, and a damn good Shiraz for dinner, I totally stuffed up my comment above. That has got to be 2 hours in the naughty corner for me now.

    What I mean’t to say:

    “Well, you all might like to claim that you are all individuals, but I’m going to stick my neck out and claim that I’m not!”

    Never the same impact when one has to correct and repeat. Damn!

    Off now to the naughty corner….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Where is “The Matrix” on that list??

    Speaking of that “Replicas” plot line, if you’re interested in such things, I highly recommend (if you haven’t already read it) our good buddy Chuck Wendig’s “The Forever Endeavor”, a novella which could be read online for free last I checked, in which the gift of time travel begins to present a logistical conundrum for the unsuspecting hero. (It’s problematic, after all, to have two versions of yourself running around in the same timeline.)

    Also, I just finished a novel I picked up on a whim: “Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch, which, without spoilerating too much, is concerned with the multiverse and the ramifications of traveling through it. It took a little longer to get into the story than I would have liked, but once it takes off, holy cow. Wild ride.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That FOREVER ENDEAVOR sure has an interesting plotline: a guy finds a red metal box with a button on top that when pressed will transport the user back in time by exactly ten minutes. As the back cover blurb explains –

    “Here is a solution to all of life’s problems. Ten minutes in time may not seem like much, but it’s not much more than we’d ever really need. Want to bet on the winner of the big game? Want to go back and take back that thing you said? Or use a snappy comeback you thought of nine minutes too late? Or maybe you need it for bigger things: to save your life, or someone else’s. Most of our lives hinge on a series of decisions, some small, some big, and with a chance to go back in time ten minutes — it’s like a SAVE and RELOAD for your current game”

    Thanks truly for putting me on to this novella Pav. It sounds fair-dinkum fascinating!

    As to the book by American author Blake Crouch, apparently DARK MATTER (published in 2016 and belonging to the genre known as ‘Quantum Fiction’) has already had its film rights optioned by Sony Pictures for $1.25 million.

    Nice work if you can get it!

    As to Keanu’s MATRIX trilogy, as dintinct from just about every other person on the planet back in the early 2000’s, that was one film series that never quite managed to get me on board.

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  6. I wouldn’t know anything about the fingerprints since I had mine burned off decades ago in order to continue my illustrious career as a jewel thief.

    Speed, John Wick, Constantine. Hated him in Dracula! A Scanner Darkly and Ronin were kind of interesting….

    His acting hasn’t improved that much over the years, but then again, in interviews he’s very humble and says he’s still amazed that he gets to do that for a living. So at least he’s not like Vin Diesel, who also can’t act, but takes himself very seriously. ;0

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wooden acting and Keanu have gone together since the 80’s so we’ve all gotten used to it by now. As to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film DRACULA, Keanu, Winona Ryder, Gary Oldman, Tom Waits and even Sir Anthony Hopkins all failed to impress in what from memory was a pretty yawn-worthy film.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I know, I agree, but still…”Vwinds….VWINDS………!”
    I miss the old Gary “over the top” Oldman. He’s such a boring *old man* in all the Batman movies!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • And I’m not even going to mention his expressionless performance in LOST IN SPACE back in 1998 ’cause I’m pretty sure you know how I’d feel about that!

      I have heard he’s a commanding presence in last year’s HUNTER KILLER.
      Do you know Stacey one of my very favourite Gary Oldman films?
      It was one of the first movies I ever saw him in way back in 1987 – PRICK UP YOUR EARS based on the life and death of British playwright Joe Orton.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I feel so uncultivated! Did not see either Hunter Killer OR Prick Up Your Ears. Did not know who Joe Orton was. I just looked him up. How sad his story is! His partner told his doctor he was “feeling better” and would see him tomorrow, and then next thing you know, he bludgeons Joe to death and then kills himself. JEEZ. I bet Gary did that role to the T. Definitely will have to see that one.
    So sad that we got robbed of all the other work Joe would have undoubtedly produced, and I’m a great lover of black comedy.

    Liked by 1 person

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