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Monday, 30 May 2011


Does people's handwriting look like their parent's handwriting?  It must have a genetic component - after all the muscles and the nervous system driving them were built by the genes.  But it is clearly also cultural - a European orphan raised by Japanese adoptive parents would learn to write Kanji not Roman letters.

This raises another question: can handwriting be characterised by geometric measures that are invariant when the language and the alphabet being written change?  The sharpness of angles; the aspect ratios of characters or pictogrms, slants, the circularity of curves and so on.

Given such a characterisation system, a classic heritability study could easily be done between separately-raised identical twins, and adoptive and biological children to find how much of the way we write is fixed.

Of course, hardly anyone writes anything longhand any more.  We should hurry to do the study before handwriting dies out alltogether...

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