21 December 2005

How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up?

James in Silver Spring, MD asked: Speaking of hands: Why does the Hamburger Helper "Helping Hand" logo only have three fingers and a thumb?

Thank you for the question, James. Most likely because, in animation, it is easier to animate three fingers over four. Matt Groening ("The Simpsons") has often said the reason his regular characters have three fingers and one thumb is because it was easier for him to draw. (One semi-regular has four fingers and thumb. Do you know which one that is?) This would probably explain why the ants in "A Bug's Life" have only four legs rather than the correct six.

This question makes one think about the evolution of the human hand. Many scientists state the greatest advance in human evolution was the opposable thumb (to aid in grasping, which leads to ease in tool making), but it is really irrelevant how many fingers oppose that thumb. Today, most humans have four fingers; however, there are the occasional births of humans with five or six fingers -- which is known as "polydactyly." Some scientists believe these are examples of genes that had once been more prominent, and now lie dormant in most cases. This implies that is it possible we have ancestors who had more than four fingers.

You might remember that episode of the original "The Outer Limits" in which a character experimented with accelerating a human subject to see how humans would evolve. At the end of his experiment the subject had five fingers and a thumb.

Two interesting articles will be found here and here.


Anonymous said...

Quick, pull my fingers...

James (Silver Spring, MD) said...

Thank you for answering my question, Christopher. I've been wondering about this since I first heard the question while watching NASCAR on TV. The driver of the Hamburger Helper car didn't know the answer. You've given a likely explanation and the polydactyl stuff is very interesting too.