Fingers on Humans

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Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Sun Dec 14, 2014 7:19 am UTC

How many fingers should humans have?

I'm not totally seeing why we need a pinky. Usually it gets bunched up at the end.

Can we live a Simpsonesque life?

Two thumbs better than one? What about an even number of thumbs and fingers?
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Angua » Sun Dec 14, 2014 8:24 am UTC

Your most redundant finger is actually the index finger - any task you do with it can easily be taken over by the middle finger. The pinky is quite important for grip strength.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Sun Dec 14, 2014 9:31 am UTC

You're fine to continue down that path. My thought was more along the line of number of, than the literal middle or index finger.

I probably need at least two fingers in opposition to the thumb in order to get a good handle on something. That creates a triangle, an important geometric shape. I'm wondering how chopsticks work (for people that are super good at using them) as they only have two opposing "fingers". It seems inefficient.

So then I wonder if the third finger is also necessary. With it (the middle finger) you have an equally opposing finger to the thumb, then the other two fingers are there to adjust balance. Think of twirling a baton. When the twirling gets to my pinky, it doesn't seem that it's required. (I'm not good at twirling batons either, see: chopsticks.)

It could be just that the pinky is so short that it's use seems a bit diminished. I get the grip thing, as maybe that's why it's short to allow more torque (or insert sciency thing here).
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Neil_Boekend » Sun Dec 14, 2014 9:45 am UTC

The pinkie is essential for the metal 'horns' sign .|..| . It is only surpassed in importance by the index finger (that also has other uses).
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Sun Dec 14, 2014 10:27 am UTC

This is Science. I think you wanted Satan. Or, maybe Sex. :shock:

:P
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Copper Bezel » Sun Dec 14, 2014 11:13 am UTC

That's the thing, though, isn't it? There's usually a task you can describe where the extra fingers come in handy. Even if it's as simple as, while maintaining a grip on X, I also pick up or otherwise manipulate Y.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Sun Dec 14, 2014 11:44 am UTC

If you are going in that direction, then how many is too much? What's the maximum number of fingers before they're no longer fingers but "arm tentacles" or whatever?

I don't mind going in whatever direction gets good answers.

If you have more and more fingers, they, just like now, will sorta get in the way because of the adjacent fingers. They're not really independent enough to do tasks fully on their own.

Maybe what you're saying works better for arms (which I would not like to discuss, maintain focus on fingers please) as they are more separate. But if it were fingers, then you would really need more thumbs as well, no? So, then it's a question of how many thumbs per finger is the minimum or most efficient. Which, I would take to mean, at that ratio, we only need one of those (fingers per thumb) per hand.

Maybe 4 is the max for fingers per thumb. I can barely reach my pinky to my thumb, so I can't imagine having another finger further out being useful (as it won't have it's magically opposing finger).
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Xenomortis » Sun Dec 14, 2014 12:01 pm UTC

I believe the literal "weakest" finger is the fourth/ring finger.

My little finger is frequently utilised when holding things like drinks.
My mouse is held between my thumb and little finger.
For fencing, my little finger is very important.

As for "would it better or worse to have more fingers", well we can try to find examples of people with fully functional extra digits.
We can also look at people born with fewer digits and see how they cope with various tasks.

But the proportions of the human hand are suited for five digits. If you were to cut off one of my fingers, the other fingers are not so well placed to take over the tasks previously given to the severed digit.

azule wrote:Maybe 4 is the max for fingers per thumb. I can barely reach my pinky to my thumb, so I can't imagine having another finger further out being useful (as it won't have it's magically opposing finger).

What?
Do you have massive palms and very short fingers?

But think about gripping something. Your little finger does not "oppose" the thumb - the index and third finger do -, it opposes the palm of your hand.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Sun Dec 14, 2014 12:19 pm UTC

Xenomortis wrote:My little finger is frequently utilised when holding things like drinks.
My mouse is held between my thumb and little finger.
I do stuff like that, too. I type mobile with my pinky when my other fingers are unnapkinned. :mrgreen: :oops: (Which, btw, is so clean because I have little use for it when eating.)
I think the mouse thing is because that last finger is in the way, otherwise it would drag across the desktop. If it weren't, you'd just use your ring finger.

Xenomortis wrote:Do you have massive palms and very short fingers?
I do have big hands, but not like that. lol. Just try it yourself. If you touch your thumb to each fingertip, one at a time, you'll see that it's super easy on index and middle, while ring is sort of on the edge. The tension builds up rather quickly when the pinky tries.

I use all my fingers, such as for typing and guitar. Just, if we didn't have it to begin with, we'd all be wondering what those 5 finger people do with that extra digit, just like it's a question what the 6 finger people do with their extra digit. (Play awesomeful (six string) guitar, probably!)

Xenomortis wrote:But think about gripping something. Your little finger <snip/> opposes the palm of your hand.
I know. That's what I meant when I said what it can do while holding a handle and all that. All the fingers oppose the palm, directly. Other animals have this attribute. I don't think it's as relevant to humans (or other Primates, if you must), though. A lot of animals make due with 1, 2, 3, etc fingers. But, I guess I see the thumb part to be important to the finger question. Am I totally wrong?
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby FancyHat » Sun Dec 14, 2014 12:38 pm UTC

What we really need is extra arms. One pair of arms can have relatively few fingers on the hands, while the other can have relatively many, and the arms can be used together when very many fingers are needed.

Just the other day I needed three hands, and thought to myself, 'If only I was evolved from insects instead of mammals.'
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:35 pm UTC

But we're not insects. We're humans. Apparently we're capable of developing fewer or more than 5 fingers, but I haven't heard of an instance of someone with more than two arms.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Angua » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:46 pm UTC

Crabtree's bludgeon: “no set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated”
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Sun Dec 14, 2014 2:43 pm UTC

Thanks for the link. I'm aware of mutations and deformities like that (poor Jie Jie) but they are mostly of non-functioning limbs, whereas the nonstandard fingers are usually always functional and not based on absorbed twins or growth deformities due to splitting. I don't have neat links like yours, sorry. Just seems that the number of fingers we have is common but not unnatural to have more or less.

Plus, limb talk can go in the "Human Limbs" thread. *hints*
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Dec 14, 2014 2:50 pm UTC

Angua wrote:http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymelia

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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Angua » Sun Dec 14, 2014 9:40 pm UTC

Most cases of polydactyly that I've seen haven't been particularly functional - just an extra stub. It's actually quite rare to have fully functioning extra fingers. They just happen to be the rare cases that you are more likely to hear about.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Dopefish » Sun Dec 14, 2014 10:21 pm UTC

I have no difficulty whatsoever in touching my thumb to my pinky compared to other fingers. Maybe I just have extra flexible digits from my life as a gamer?

Another thing to consider here when thinking of examples of why our digits are useful is that in the majority of cases the examples are human made things designed for 5 fingered humans. It doesn't seem a stretch to me that many of the things we use all 5 fingers for (and imagine having difficulties doing with only 4) could be made quite practical with subtle redesigns of the object so that suddenly 4 does seem optimal (or in the other direction, things designed for 6+ fingers could make 5 seem impractical).

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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Mon Dec 15, 2014 12:13 am UTC

I'm a gamer, too, but when is the pinky used except in Guitar Hero and PC games. PC?

Totally agree on how things are designed for our number of fingers. Think of typing. Index has to go in one column...that's a six finger situation. But the same could be done with pinky column...the ring could slide out one column, therefore we need only 3 fingers and a thumb.

Angua wrote:Most cases of polydactyly that I've seen haven't been particularly functional - just an extra stub. It's actually quite rare to have fully functioning extra fingers. They just happen to be the rare cases that you are more likely to hear about.
That would make sense. But then it also makes sense that a functional extra arm might have been news, too. That could, sadly, be due to aborting when they're discovered, while fingers might not be as easily caught or noticed. A quick glance can only count up to four similar items in a group.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby PM 2Ring » Mon Dec 15, 2014 3:00 am UTC

Gypsy jazz guitar virtuoso Django Reinhardt managed to keep playing excellent guitar after two of his fingers were paralysed due to a bad burn. And heavy metal guitarist Tony Iommi did ok even though he'd lost the tips of two fingers in a factory accident as a teenager.

I suppose I could play guitar without my left pinky, but it would make it a lot trickier, especially when trying to add embellishments to chords.

OTOH, a few extra fingers might come in handy for guitar playing...

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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Derek » Tue Dec 16, 2014 10:21 am UTC

Xenomortis wrote:My mouse is held between my thumb and little finger.

As an alternative anecdote, I hold my mouse between my thumb and ring finger. My pinky rests on the mousepad.

azule wrote:Totally agree on how things are designed for our number of fingers. Think of typing. Index has to go in one column...that's a six finger situation. But the same could be done with pinky column...the ring could slide out one column, therefore we need only 3 fingers and a thumb.

On that topic, I basically only use my right pinky finger for the enter key. I never use right shift, and all the other keys on that side I stretch my ring finger for. But on the left side I use my pinky for shift, a, z, ctrl, and caps lock (but I use my ring finger for q and tab). Kind of a strange asymmetry.

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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Dec 16, 2014 3:16 pm UTC

azule wrote: I'm wondering how chopsticks work (for people that are super good at using them) as they only have two opposing "fingers". It seems inefficient.
Chopsticks use three fingers and six points of contact:

One chopstick touches the knuckle of the index finger, the outer joint of the middle finger and the joint of the thumb; this one does not move.
The other one touches the tip of the index finger, the tip of the thumb, and the inner joint of the index finger. Motion is accomplished by bending the index and thumb.
azule wrote:If you have more and more fingers, they, just like now, will sorta get in the way because of the adjacent fingers.
In partner dancing, people almost exclusively use just the middle and ring fingers; the rest are "in the way" more than anything. This comes from the large angles of rotation the handholds need to make, long and narrow is better but a single finger can be too weak/fragile.
Xenomortis wrote:But think about gripping something. Your little finger does not "oppose" the thumb - the index and third finger do -, it opposes the palm of your hand.
The thumb provides control to the opposition action. Grips involving the thumb but not the palm provide fine positioning control. In whole hand grips the thumb provides an extra direction of force (pick up your mouse, then release the thumb and feel how shaky the grip seems).

Going back to Azule's question: The utility of extra thumbs depends on how they're oriented, as they provide control, not power. I'd say the best place for an extra thumb would be in lieu of the pinky. The pinky's thumbward force is already important
azule wrote:Just try it yourself. If you touch your thumb to each fingertip, one at a time, you'll see that it's super easy on index and middle, while ring is sort of on the edge. The tension builds up rather quickly when the pinky tries.
Unless I'm misunderstanding you, you're quite exceptional. Look at the sixth gesture here (ASL sign for 6), is that what you're talking about? Holding the other fingers perfectly straight is a little awkward for me, but getting the thumb and piny tips to touch is effortless.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Neil_Boekend » Tue Dec 16, 2014 3:29 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
azule wrote:Just try it yourself. If you touch your thumb to each fingertip, one at a time, you'll see that it's super easy on index and middle, while ring is sort of on the edge. The tension builds up rather quickly when the pinky tries.
Unless I'm misunderstanding you, you're quite exceptional. Look at the sixth gesture here (ASL sign for 6), is that what you're talking about? Holding the other fingers perfectly straight is a little awkward for me, but getting the thumb and piny tips to touch is effortless.

For me it's not hard but it is definitely more of a strain than the other fingers. Trying the ASL 6 takes a few tries (mostly because it requires moving the pinkie and the ring fingers separately).
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby p1t1o » Tue Dec 16, 2014 3:45 pm UTC

Apparently Octopuses are one of the most dextrous creatures in the animal kingdom, capable of fine dexterity and raw power, I vote for actual arm-tenticles, failing that, one big flexible finger :D

(Bang a prehensile tail and a pair of wings on your back and you've got the perfect being. Maybe horns?)

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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby mathmannix » Tue Dec 16, 2014 7:20 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:Look at the sixth gesture here (ASL sign for 6), is that what you're talking about? Holding the other fingers perfectly straight is a little awkward for me, but getting the thumb and piny tips to touch is effortless.

Hmm. I can't tell for certain from the picture, as it is from the front, but in my head I expect the three upright fingers to be in the same plane as the palm, but only the pointer and middle fingers are for me, the ring finger is not - and it's way off for my left hand when I try it.

I measured using the protractor on https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/70/Protractor_Rapporteur_Degrees_V3.jpg, and here are the results. While touching my thumb and pinky fingers at the tip, and keeping my pointer and middle fingers in the same plane as my palm (and as my forearm, but that doesn't affect it), and trying to move my ring finger as close to the plane as I can (without holding it with the other hand or something else, which makes it hurt):

Right (dominant) hand: my ring finger is 25-30 degrees off the plane

Left hand: my ring is a whopping 65-70 degrees off the plane

Thus measured objectively, do you guys have more flexible hands than I?
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Tue Dec 16, 2014 11:46 pm UTC

PM 2Ring wrote:Frank Zappa - Stinkfoot
I'll have to check that out some other time (quotas). Is it related to Stinkfist?

Derek wrote: I hold my mouse between my thumb and ring finger. My pinky rests on the mousepad.
I haven't used a mouse (regularly) in years, but I recall that being my thing, too. Due to my large palms, that's all the fingers that comfortably fit the mouse. "When I hold my mouse, I use 3 fingers. My thumb rubs its little cheek and my pinky strokes its silky tail."

Quizatzhaderac wrote:Chopsticks use three fingers and six points of contact:
Hello. I meant, not how do people use them, but how do they themselves work "as fingers". In otherwords, Edward ScissorChopstickhands. Maybe you're also willing to explain how they work efficiently enough to survive along with the fork, the spoon, and even just going commando (using fingers directly)?

Quizatzhaderac wrote:In partner dancing, people almost exclusively use just the middle and ring fingers; the rest are "in the way" more than anything. This comes from the large angles of rotation the handholds need to make, long and narrow is better but a single finger can be too weak/fragile.
A case for just 2 fingers (and a thumb, I'm assuming the other partner "gribs" with the thumb?). As others have said, we'll probably find use cases for all finger numbers (picking nose would be a one finger case (plus thumb to flick off the reward)). I guess it would be, from the minimum number (such as your "2") up to the maximum, what's the most efficient number to have? Like where we don't have useless fingers getting in the way for one task just because they're nice to have for another. Maybe it is 4, but...

Quizatzhaderac wrote:The utility of extra thumbs depends on how they're oriented, as they provide control, not power. I'd say the best place for an extra thumb would be in lieu of the pinky. The pinky's thumbward force is already important
...a thumb instead of a pinky? Maybe that's the solution, hmm.

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
azule wrote:Just try it yourself. If you touch your thumb to each fingertip, one at a time, you'll see that it's super easy on index and middle, while ring is sort of on the edge. The tension builds up rather quickly when the pinky tries.
Unless I'm misunderstanding you, you're quite exceptional. Look at the sixth gesture here (ASL sign for 6), is that what you're talking about? Holding the other fingers perfectly straight is a little awkward for me, but getting the thumb and piny tips to touch is effortless.
Thank you for saying "exceptional" instead of something less nice (which is how I'd probably describe myself). I don't understand how putting your index to thumb takes more effort than pinky to thumb. This is not what I meant, but the demonstration of the concept is better. I meant nothing about keeping the other fingers straight, but the tension from putting pink to thumb is folds above the other fingers, still, for me. I can't easily keep the other fingers straight when doing pinky, unless I exert much tension to separate ring.

p1t1o wrote:Apparently Octopuses are one of the most dextrous creatures in the animal kingdom, capable of fine dexterity and raw power, I vote for actual arm-tenticles, failing that, one big flexible finger :D

(Bang a prehensile tail and a pair of wings on your back and you've got the perfect being. Maybe horns?)
They are, but only in the water, right? If we're talking mermaids, I think you've made a case for the fingers to be tentacles. Being in the air, maybe you'll have to make a case for wing fingers. I agree, though, we need wings and a tail...horns. :)
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby PM 2Ring » Wed Dec 17, 2014 3:50 am UTC

azule wrote:
PM 2Ring wrote:Frank Zappa - Stinkfoot
I'll have to check that out some other time (quotas). Is it related to Stinkfist?

They aren't related (AFAICT). Stinkfist is rather dark, Stinkfoot is a bit of light-hearted Zappa silliness. Stinkfoot predates Stinkfist by a couple of decades, so I guess there might be some influence on the name.

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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby drachefly » Wed Dec 17, 2014 12:21 pm UTC

I can easily detect extra tension getting my thumb to touch my pinky, but it's nowhere near the limit. I max out abut two additional finger-widths over.

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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Dec 17, 2014 2:05 pm UTC

Wait... Am I understanding you guys correctly;

You cannot touch your thumb to your pinky without some struggle?
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Dec 17, 2014 2:21 pm UTC

No, it's not difficult, it's just around the limit for the thumb for me. I can get it about one finger width past the line of the palm, but that does require unusual stretching.

Not atypical that individuals' hands have very different limits in terms of degrees of freedom. I'm sure you've compared with a friend at some point? It's not highly relevant to this discussion, because any such limits could be adjusted to whatever configuration you're inventing.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Angua » Wed Dec 17, 2014 2:24 pm UTC

I think they're just saying that they notice it more.

Analogous to, it's more effort to lift your arm above your head when holding a hardcover book, but still (for most, healthy people) easy to do.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Neil_Boekend » Wed Dec 17, 2014 2:36 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Wait... Am I understanding you guys correctly;

You cannot touch your thumb to your pinky without some struggle?

Far from a struggle. It just gives notably more strain than touching my thumb to my index finger. Like the difference between holding a book at arms length and holding it normally.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Envelope Generator » Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:41 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:Thus measured objectively, do you guys have more flexible hands than I?


I can't manage the example ASL 6 at all. If I just bring my pinky tip and thumb tip gently together as shown in the photo, my ring finger curls so far that its tip is a full 90 degrees off the plane. I have to grab the pinky tip with the thumb and push it toward the palm, and even then my ring finger juts out 15 degrees or so—probably enough to be recognizable as an ASL 6 but not like in the photo.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Sizik » Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:51 pm UTC

I wonder, how many of you have been in Boy/Girl Scouts?
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Whizbang » Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:53 pm UTC

azule wrote:How many fingers should humans have?


As with every important thing in life, more than a handful is just a waste.

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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Wed Dec 17, 2014 8:17 pm UTC

Lol, what was my point in mentioning that, again? Oh, yeah, I was saying having another finger beyond the pinky would be even more useless. I see that one person can go two fingers past, another can go one past with struggle, while I cannot go any past.

I think this means that I should have just 3, another person 4, 5, or 6. Maybe this is due to hand/palm size. Small hands, drachefly? Any females here?

Sizik wrote:I wonder, how many of you have been in Boy/Girl Scouts?
Not me. Why?
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Dec 17, 2014 9:24 pm UTC

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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby azule » Wed Dec 17, 2014 9:34 pm UTC

Right. Held down pinky, not fingers tip to tip.

Might also be helpful to start this finger stretching when young. Probably the reason for Sizik's question.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Dec 17, 2014 9:36 pm UTC

I just don't see how that's remotely a stretch? I can crack my pinky by pressing down on the first joint with the thumb on that hand, and if anything, can reach and apply enough pressure to be uncomfortable by over forcing the pinky.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Dec 18, 2014 3:34 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I just don't see how that's remotely a stretch?

I'm confused. What are you talking about exactly? I don't think anyone's claiming it's a stretch for your hands. Some people are explaining that it's a stretch with theirs.
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Dec 18, 2014 4:49 am UTC

And I find that surprising. It's like someone saying "I mean, I can look up and down, but 30 degrees to the left or right and I can feel my eyeballs straining"
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Re: Fingers on Humans

Postby Qaanol » Thu Dec 18, 2014 5:17 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:And I find that surprising. It's like someone saying "I mean, I can look up and down, but 30 degrees to the left or right and I can feel my eyeballs straining"

No, what was actually said amounts to, “When attempting something similar to the ASL 6, but instead of holding the pinky down with the thumb, trying to do it with thumb and pinky tips gently touching (actual tips, so the nails are essentially continuous), it is difficult to straighten the ring finger.”

This is…hardly surprising at all, once explained properly.

For myself, attempting that same action, with my right hand I can get close enough to look straight, but probably 5-10° off. With my left hand, I can’t even fully extend my ring finger in that position. The actual ASL 6 and the Scout sign are both quite easy for me.
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