Thursday Trivia (on Friday!): Snowflakes


That's pretty awesome. Image by Vlastula Juricek (Flickr name Vlastula).

A couple of weeks ago, there was a nice little dusting of snow across Manhattan (though, since Manhattan is practically covered in salt from about November to March, no one really noticed come the next morning, save for everything having a layer of salt on it). Further, for the last month there has been an equally nice and equally small dusting of snow falling on every page of this blog. Because of these multiple snowfalls – and in the hopes of a White Christmas here in New York – here comes five posts on snowflakes:

  • Many American children (at least those raised in the northeast) know the story of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, who was a pioneer of snowflake photography, and were told that no two snowflakes are alike. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true – it’s just extremely improbable, due to the 10^19 water molecules that make of a snowflake and their potential permutations. (And considering there have been 10^34 snowflakes that have ever fallen, according to National Geographic, an amount that’s comparably paltry to the number of potential snowflake designs, there probably have not been any identical snowflakes in history.)
  • The story of Bentley’s life, aptly titled Snowflake Bentley, won a Caldecott Medal, the award for the best American picture book, in 1999.
  • Snowflakes themselves can be a single ice crystal, a small cluster of crystals, or a large agglomeration that becomes a ball.
  • Snow that turns into a ball, rather than a flake, due to melting and refreezing, is called a graupel.
  • Although unconfirmed, Guinness lists the world’s largest snowflakes as those that fell in Fort Keogh, Montana, in 1887, which were said to be 15 inches in diameter.

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