Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Your Face Is Your Fortune

Doreen Salcher/Adobe

Doreen Salcher/Adobe

By John L. Bradshaw

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there is an additional treasure-trove of information still to be mined from new ways of looking at people's varying faces.

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Her face may have launched a thousand ships in the punitive raid to retake the errant Helen, and a picture of a particular face is certainly worth a thousand or more words – if you have ever tried to describe one unambiguously. Indeed few other pictures, objects or pictures of objects can match the nuanced complexity of a particular person’s portrait or actual living countenance. Apart from what might be the case with occasional pairs of identical twins, one would have to search through many thousands of mug shots to encounter an even remotely similar match, and even then the search would likely prove fruitless.

It is no accident that the latest generation of security software seeks to address the problem of user identity via face recognition. Your face is practically unique, and usually is conveniently exposed to full view.

Faces are in this respect the equivalent of a motor vehicle’s registration plate, but they are also much more than that. They convey a person’s mood changes from moment to moment and, along with postural alterations and body language generally, are an important adjunct to the spoken word. The blind are thereby doubly penalised in daily intercourse.

Humans have long been considered unlike all other species in our ability to make and deploy tools, use language to communicate and have a sense of personal identity, but these...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.