Catching a Snowflake
This is what snowflakes really look like.
Snow researchers (seriously, how cool of a job is that?) in Utah have developed a high-speed camera set-up that captures images of snowflakes as they fall from the sky. It gives us a nearly three-dimensional view of these tumbling crystals of frozen water vapor, and may help refine weather and storm predictions.
That’s not the coolest part, of course. What I find fascinating is that our image of a “snowflake” as a single hexagonal crystal, with infinitely-varied fractally frozen arms, is completely wrong. More often than not, they’re imperfect clumps of randomly branched ice.
The old rule of “no two snowflakes are alike” still holds, it just got a lot more complicated.
Pictures of snowflakes always remind me of my high school physics teacher, who was kind of a genius. In addition to teaching at my high school and a local college, he had a passion for photography. He built his own cameras and took pictures of snowflakes or patterns in soap bubbles or popping balloons. (Apparently he started out taking pictures of snowflakes, but, in his words, “The field started getting crowded so I moved on.” Crowded, meaning there were more than five snowflake photographers in the world.)