Snow Crystals

Salt Lake City snow, February 2011

A 2010 article in National Geographic News explores the idea that no two snowflakes are alike.  There are “10,000,000,000,000,000,000 [or 10+19] water molecules in a typical snow crystal,” and each one forms when a supercooled cloud droplet (roughly 10-05 meters in diameter) freezes.  While it’s true that each snow crystal sparkles in its own unique way, Jon Nelson, a research scientist at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, explains that in early stages of formation, snow crystals are little more than six-sided prisms—all of which look very similar to one another.

Nelson adds, however, that “…just because two underdeveloped snowflakes may look alike…don’t expect to find them.  If you had a million snow crystals photographed for comparison and could compare two of them every second, ‘you’d be there for nearly a hundred thousand [10+05] years or so ,’ he said. ‘It’s a safe bet they won’t be discovered.’”

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