Phenomena

Growing Snowflakes

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Watching a snowflake grow seems almost magical–the six-sided shape, the symmetry, the way every arm of it grows simultaneously. But it’s science that guides the snowflake, not magic. Snowflakes are ice crystals; their six-sided shape comes from how water molecules fit together. The elaborate structures and branches in a snowflake are the result of the exact temperature and humidity conditions when that part of the snowflake formed. The crystals look symmetric and seem to grow identical arms simultaneously because the temperature and humidity conditions are the same around the tiny forming crystals. And the old adage that no two snowflakes are alike doesn’t hold either. If you can control the conditions well enough, you can grow identical-twin snowflakes! (Video credit: K. Libbrecht)

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