Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Macro snowflakes are gorgeous

Photographer Andrew Osokin has taken some spectacular macro photos of snowflakes. They really show the crystal structure of the flakes in all their geometric beauty.  I think that these photos illustrate the symmetry and balance of the laws of nature/physics.

Most snowflakes have six-way radial symmetry because of the six sided structure of ice molecules.  When one forms there are six convenient places for the next molecules to attach.  While this is occurring the little proto-flake is moving through air of different temperatures and humidities that will encourage new water molecules to freeze to or melt away from the snowflake.  The six arms grow independently, so they usually aren't exactly alike, but since they are all exposed to very similar environmental effects, they usually develop in very similar ways and end up similar enough to produce the appearance of six-way symmetry.  Still, the conditions vary enough that it is highly unlikely that you will ever see two snowflakes that are exactly the same.
Crystal structure of an ice molecule

Another thing that these pictures show is that snowflakes tend to be flat.  Thanks to the structure of the ice molecule, their arms generally develop in a plane.  
Also, although water and ice are clear, the very small facets of the snow crystals tend to cause a diffuse reflection of all colors of light and thus we perceive them as white.

Cool stuff (well cold actually).

Next time you are out in the snow, take a minute to look ate these little guys up close.  You might like what you see!

via buzzfeed