About them snowflakes (or now you too can practically barf out snowflake trivia)

So like Vancouver had a major dump of snow last week, which is just not west coast at all. Predictably, all hell broke loose, and UBC even experienced a campus wide power outage at one point. Anyway, whilst looking for some things for the FILTER, I came across a really cool website that looked at snowflake morphology, called snowcrystals.com


It's pretty amazing really, how convoluted the categories are - and all, of course, are dictated by the hexagonal lattice that water crystallizes at. Essentially, due to the polar "V" like structure of H2O, the most energetically favorable way of packing itself is in this six sided form.


From this, structures are formed in a symmetrical fashion because presumably congruent environmental conditions will exist on all six sides of this lattice. Therefore, when gaseous water becomes attached to this frozen crystalline base, it will do so in identical ways on each of the six sides. Hence, you get funky looking six sided things like these below.


How "conditions" dictate the type of snowflake produced is where the hardcore science comes into play. But to be honest, it doesn't seem like those specifics are worked out fully yet. However, what has been determined are the forms that do form under various conditions. In other words, there is data whereby the type of snowflake produced can be predicted based on the conditions available - it's just the "how does it do this?" that isn't clear.


Mind you, if you are into the hardcore physics behind all of this, you can cuddle up to this review paper, warmly titled "The Physics of Snowflakes" by Kenneth Libbrecht (this is also the dude who runs the website).

Still, a blog post wouldn't be complete without an excuse to self induce yourself into dizzyness and some serious eye strain. Luckily, (and thanks to a hat tip to inkycircus) this is easy with this topic because of some great snowflake electron microscopy stereograms from the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (although, you might have more fun telling your co-workers that they are actually "spot the difference" pictures).


Go on try it. You know you want to. That's right, put your face right up to your monitor and concentrate...

* * *

Anyway, it's probably better to end this post, by simply commenting "Can't we humans do anything right?" Since a case in point is to look at man-made snow (it's, like, the ugliest thing you can imagine...)


Hey... this stuff isn't even a little bit pretty...

Go check out snowcrystals.com. It rocks.

More like this

"They say that every snowflake is different. If that were true, how could the world go on? How could we ever get up off our knees? How could we ever recover from the wonder of it?" -Jeanette Winterson Here in Portland, it's just cold for now. But much of the world has been blanketed in those…
"Lives are snowflakes - unique in detail, forming patterns we have seen before, but as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There's not a chance you'd mistake one for another, after a minute's close inspection.)" -Neil Gaiman…
My journey to the world of snowflakes started about 15 years ago and began with my love for microscopes. Upon showing images from the microscope to friends they had little interest in all the wonderful biology, but were fascinated by the images of snowflakes. There had been little done in this…
It didn't make the news, because skittish media types are mostly based in New York City and thus don't care about anything north of Westchester County, but we had a big snow storm yesterday. It started snowing Sunday night, though, and kept up through pretty much dinnertime Monday. Both the local…