2010 is here, the weather is getting colder and that means SNOW. Are two snowflakes ever alike? And why are most of them depicted (in art, anyway) as completely wrong?
Snowflakes are usually drawn inaccurately. They are shown as having four, five or even eight-corners although, despite the fact that no two are alike, they ARE all six-cornered. The six-corner configuration is a result of how they’re made: In LiveScience.com, Jeanna Bryner quotes researcher Thomas Koop as saying, “The resulting hexagonal crystal lattice is the lowest energy form of water at cold ambient conditions,” which is a scientist’s way of explaining that they can only have 6 sides, no more and no less.
But the old idea that no two are exactly alike IS true. In answer to this question, in LiveScience.com, Sara Goudarzi quotes physicist Kenneth Libbrecht as saying, “The answer is basically yes, because there is such an incredibly large number of possible ways to make a complex snowflake. In many cases, there are very clear differences between snow crystals, but of course there are many similar crystals as well. In the lab we often produce very simple, hexagonal crystals, and these all look very similar.
“I’m trying to understand the dynamics of how crystals grow, all the way down to the molecular level. This is a very complicated problem, and I’ve been looking at ice as a particularly interesting case study.”
He’s discovered that WHERE snowflakes fall can determine their shape. Goudarzi quotes him as saying, “Fairbanks sometimes offers some unusual crystal types, because it’s so cold. Warmer climates, for example, in New York State and the vicinity, tend to produce less spectacular crystals.”
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Art credit: Whitley Strieber
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