Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sarra Loves Snow Stars

"How full of the creative genius is the air in which these are generated! I should hardly admire them more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat."

~Henry David Thoreau

We've already learned about Wilson Bentley so it was fun to read in depth about snowflakes in this book,

 The Snowflake Winter's Secret Beauty by Kenneth Libbrecht

I learned so many things, like that the earliest account of snow-crystal structure was penned by Descartes. Then, I learned that a Japanese nuclear physicist, named Nakaya, created the world's first synthetic snow-crystals. Natural snowflakes form as the float freely in the atmosphere so they have a long distance to develop, but to simulate this in a lab is impossible, unless you have a rabbit hair... for real, read it, it blew my nerdy, science center loving mind. "

After discovering the unexpected value of rabbit hair, Nakaya grew many individual crystals at different temperatures and humidity levels. He observed how the morphology of each crustal- it's detailed shape and structure- depends on the condition of the air in which it grew." There's a chart on
p. 45 called Snow-Crystal Morphology that was interesting with a capital "I", but I'm a chart kind of person. Put anything on a chart, and it's automatically interesting. If you check it out you'll discover that the complexity of snow-crystal shape increases with increasing humidity.

"Everything is complicated; if that were not so, life and poetry and everything else would be a bore."
~ Wallace Stevens

Now here is the answer to the-no-two-snowflakes-are-alike mystery, are you ready?

"The precise morphology of each falling crystal is determined by its random and erratic motions through the atmosphere. A complex path yields a complex snowflake. And since no two crystals follow exactly the same path to the ground, no two crystals will be identical in appearance. So where is the creative genus, capable of designing snow crystals in an endless variety of beautiful patters? It lives in the ever-changing wind."

Don't be surprised if you see us outside in the snow this week, with a magnifying glass ;)

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