Are Any Two Snowflakes Alike?

Have you ever heard or asked this question yourself? I remember hearing this as a kid. I remember hearing that no two snowflakes are the same. Sometimes when it is bitter cold and the conditions are just right, you can see the beauty and characteristics of each flake.

A week or two ago it was negative teens or twenties (degrees) Celsius and snowing. Beautiful snowflakes were gracefully floating down to earth and because it was so cold they did not melt. You were able to observe the detail of every snowflake as it landed on your jacket. They were absolutely beautiful. I felt like that little girl again wondering if any two snowflakes were just alike?

I decided to see if this was true. Were my parents and teachers accurate with what they told me as a little girl? As I researched it became a complex answer – like that depends on what a snowflake is? Also it led into physics – which was never my strong suit, sorry Mr. Lacsny (High school physics teacher). I started to think how would we really ever know this answer even if you were the smartest scientist in the world? You would have to look at the statistical probability that any two flakes are exactly alike by examining all of the different possible number of water atoms in a snowflake, describing all the different possible angles and configurations of the atoms to every possible quantum state, and then you could calculate the probability that two would be exactly alike. If you were able to calculate that, you would have a number of possible flakes that would be more than all the atoms in the entire universe. In other words, there is a probability that two flakes could be exactly the same to the quantum level, but the probability is vanishingly small such that you’d have to wait for trillions of years on trillions of earths waiting for it to happen, and it still might never happen. But if you define “alike” more loosely, you can go out today and find two snowflakes that look pretty similar to each other–you’d find a good match in a day with a computer to help you with the image processing and data mining. But if you started to look deeper you would ultimately discover that some of the atoms were arranged differently.

So my research concluded, that my parents and teachers were correct and no two snowflakes are exactly alike.

For more scientific info on snowflakes here is a link.





Categories: Finland Life, Nature | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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