Your hand reveals whether you are a boffin or in line for alien abduction. Okay, perhaps not. Michael Booth gets to grips with palmistry. Photograph by Adrian Burke
Modern-day palmists, desperate to break free from the Gypsy Rose Lee, end-of-the-pier image, claim their 3,000-year-oId technique is as respected as graphology, and used frequently in hospitals and boardrooms. Clearly this is hooey. Palmistry is no more an indication of personality or of the future than feeling for bumps on your head. However, claiming that you can read palms is a great way of meeting women at parties, what's more you get to touch them with their husbands standing right there (note: palmistry is equally good bait for men). So for that reason we have compiled the following brief guide to the "art" of palmistry. Ask your victim to remove their rings and try to view the hand in natural light. Their dominant hand, the one they write with, tells you about what has happened to them in the past and their life now. Their other hand reveals potential and reflects ambitions and the future. A palm covered with lines indicates much hand wringing has gone on - you have a highly strung neurotic in your hands, and they may require sedation at any minute. A featureless hand denotes calmness. Each line represents a lifetime. For example, a 25-year-old's lines will tell you about their past up until about a third of the way along, and the future from then onwards. Read horizontal lines from the thumb side across, vertical lines from the wrist up.

Head Line If yours is straight you have no imagination; if it slopes down you are a sensitive soul. If yours crosses your life line at its start you are something of a Timothy Lumsden, tied to your mother's apron strings. Lines branching up from the head line indicate successes past or to come. If they point to your index finger you will make a good leader; lines to your middle finger show you will be a diligent researcher; if they point to your ring finger your success will be in the arts; and if they point to your little finger you have a head for business. A line branching down to the opposite side of your hand from your thumb basically means that you are, or will be, a brainiac of the highest order.

Success Line A barometer of triumphs which, if broken shows you will struggle. If you don't have one, you have long ago realised that you make your own luck in life.

Heart Line A straight heart line indicates frigidity, but too curved and you are a shag monster. The closer it is to your fingers, the more rational you are about matters of the heart. If it is far away, your heart is worn on your sleeve. If yours is short and close to your fingers, you can sleep around with impunity. Little lines flowing from the heart line show you are always open to new people. If your heart and head line are combined you are mad, bad and dangerous to know, prone to intense jealousy and turbulent emotions.

Health Line If you've got one at all you should worry. Healthy people have no health line. If it is fractured so is your health, or else you are an insufferable hypochondriac. If it begins near your thumb you have stomach problems; a long line warns of ulcers.

Fate Line Some sorry individuals have no fate line, which means they are on their own in life. If yours starts at your head line you are a boffin, if it stops abruptly at the heart line you have had an affair (but then you already know that).

Life Line Quite complicated this, but if you have a long life line it means ... yes! that you will live for a long time. A sharp line falling from the top of the life line means you had a nasty shock as a child. Small lines going off from the life line upwards indicate ambition. If your life line stays close to your thumb you are a stay-at-home, if it moves away you will travel. If the line is broken at some points there will be dramatic changes in your life - a new job, house move or alien abduction. A line inside your life lines on both hands shows that you are going to come into money. If your life line ends in an estuary effect you need to worry about your health more than most.

A star Several lines meeting and crossing to form a star, wherever it appears on your hand, is generally a good sign. It may be a lottery win, although occasionally it could be a sudden misfortune (hope that's specific enough for you). A trident shape shows you will have ever lasting happiness, and is particularly good if it appears at the end of your heart (love) or head line (braininess).