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Scientists from Georgia Tech have found that a finger snap is the fastest body motion. Although most people believe that blinking is more rapid, the team has found that snapping your fingers takes seven milliseconds, 20 times faster than blinking.

The history of finger-snapping

The scientists found that friction between the third finger and the thumb made a finger snap fast. In contrast, a rubber glove produced too little friction, and a rubber thimble had too much.

The cultural history of finger-snapping is about 2300 years old. Evidence is seen in ancient art and from Flamenco dancers in Spain. Greek pottery makers were the first people to depict snapping in 300BC. While this might be interesting, many wonder why the scientists from Georgia Tech would study finger snapping.

The team explained that learning about finger-snapping could help them develop better prosthetic hands and robots.

How researchers conducted the experiment 

According to an assistant professor at the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech and a study co-author, Dr. Saad Bhamla, he has been trying to understand how humans can snap. He added that physicists have not sufficiently investigated the phenomenon.

In a series of experiments, the scientists used dynamic force sensors, automated image processing, and high-speed cameras to study finger snapping. In each test, they covered volunteers’ fingers with various materials, including metallic thimbles. Friction seemed to affect the speed of a snap as too much and too little slowed it down.

The team reached a maximum rotational velocity of 7800 degrees each second. Results showed that the finger snap with bare skin was faster than other materials. Moreover, the speed was significantly lower when metallic thimble covered the fingers.

Bhamla studies fast motions in organisms such as insects and humans, so when he saw the spend, he was surprised. The finger snaps appeared faster than blinking, which takes 150 milliseconds.

Dr. Bhalma now wonders why humans snap and if humans are the only primates that can. Moreover, humans might have long had the ability to snap their fingers even though the earliest recordings go back to 300BC.