Yes, Virginia, some snowflakes can look the same!
Snowflakes are one of the most recognizable and endearing symbols of winter.
Their intricate shapes have been the inspiration for Christmas ornaments, jewelry and U.S. postage stamps. They are the subject of song, school projects and even scientific investigation, including a possible impact on global warming.
Jon Nelson, a researcher with Ritsumeikan University in Japan, has studied snowflakes for 15 years, and has some interesting insights into their delicate structures.
Is it true that no two snowflakes are alike?
The old adage that ‘no two snowflakes are alike' may ring true for larger snowflakes, but it might not hold true for smaller, simpler crystals that fall before they've had a chance to fully develop. Regardless, snow crystals have tremendous diversity, partly due to their very high sensitivity to tiny temperature changes as they fall through the clouds.
How do snowflakes form?
A snowflake starts as a dust grain floating in a cloud. Water vapor in the air sticks to the dust grain and the resulting droplet turns directly into ice. And that's where the science kicks in.
First, the tiny ice crystal becomes hexagonal (six-sided). This shape originates from the chemistry of the water molecule, which consists of two hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom. Because of the angle of the water molecule and its hydrogen-bonding, the water molecules in a snowflake chemically bond to each other to form the six-sided flake. The flake eventually sprouts six tiny branches. Each of these branches grows to form side branches in a direction and shape that are influenced by the clustering of water molecules on the ice crystal surfaces.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW ILLUSTRATION ABOUT HOW SNOWFLAKES ARE FORMED: http://acswebcontent.acs.org/journalist_resources/snowposter.pdf
Why are scientists interested in the study of snowflakes?
The study of snowflakes, which are really ice crystals, has recently become important due to the possible influences that these crystals have on global climate change. Researchers now believe that ice crystals play a crucial role in ozone depletion, possibly by acting as a catalyst to break down ozone. Ice crystals in the atmosphere also play a key role in building up electric charges in clouds and are therefore believed to influence the production of lightning, although the mechanism is unclear.
Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...