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libbrecht-snowflake

The American Chemical Society has a great two-minute video explaining the basic chemistry behind snowflake formation, including how each degree of temperature difference adds to the branches of the flake. Are no two snowflakes really alike? It depends on if we’re talking about big snowflakes or little ones.

On a side note, the incredible snowflake photo above is the work of master snowflake photographer Ken Libbrecht, author of The Art of the Snowflake: A Photographic Album and Ken Libbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes, both treasured books in my little library. Geek out some more on snow and read more about his special photography rig.

Goli Mohammadi

I’m senior editor at MAKE and have worked on MAKE magazine since the first issue. I’m a word nerd who particularly loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon as a whole. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for the ideal alpine lake or hunting for snow to feed my inner snowboard addict.

The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. The specific beat I cover is art, and I’m a huge proponent of STEAM (as opposed to STEM). After all, the first thing most of us ever made was art.

Contact me at goli (at) makermedia (dot) com.


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Comments

  1. Terry Pold says:

    This is a mildly intereesting video. What really needs to be explained is why snow flakes display radial symmetry. How does one arm know what shape any other arm is creating. Shouldn’t each arm grow randonly?

    1. Conjecture says:

      Based on the information in the video, it sounds like the ice structures that form on each arm is based solely on the temperature. If the temperature is uniform across the surface of the snowflake, the six arms would develop identically. If two snowflakes were exposed to exactly the same temperature variations over their growth, they would be identical to each other as well. I wish I had a lot of money and time to spend growing snowflakes.

      1. Goli Mohammadi says:

        I believe you’re correct, Conjecture. Libbrecht has a great “Snow Crystal Primer” on his site with a helpful morphology diagram: https://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/primer/primer.htm

        And yes, I agree that growing snowflakes would be a fine and fascinating scientific undertaking!

  2. I love Kenneth Libbrecht’s work (& website). For those interested in easy DIY (Make-style!) snow crystal photography, you can do what I did. Use an inexpensive Easy-Macro lens (basically, a rubber band w a small lens) on any smartphone to get some pretty amazing snow crystal pics of your own. I just took some in Ithaca, NY, and posted them here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/116780922551677170912/albums/5827856207195562881

    1. Goli Mohammadi says:

      Wow! That is so cool, Karyn! Your pictures turned out great. Thanks for sharing!

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