Tag Archives: snow

Frosty Goodness

Well, I suppose winter is finally here, even though the actual equinox doesn’t occur for a couple of weeks yet. We had our first snowfall yesterday, accumulating somewhere between 3 and 4 inches, and the temps last night dropped down to a frigid zero degrees. On the up side, that meant that when I got up to feed the horses this morning, the landscape outside was decked out in a half-inch of frost that stood out on branches, bushes, and high-tensile fenceline in a gorgeous manner. Wish I’d had my camera – and enough light that it would have it worthwhile.

Ok, I’m done. Can we have Spring back now?


And I don’t mean of the Dairy Queen variety (though I _do_ like those very much).

I think I know what it’s like to trek across the frozen Antarctic with the wind blowing ice crystals to the horizontal and drifts of snow three and four feet deep. You could almost believe that you’re out in the frozen wastes.

Today has been a good day for hunkering down inside where it’s warm and cozy – and aside from the occasional foray to walk dogs and feed horses, we’ve done just that. The road in front of our house is covered in six inches of snow, and the main highway that runs a little further away is virtually empty but for the periodic glimpse of twirling yellow lights. Chances are good that tomorrow we’ll be stuck at home, as well – and I don’t think I mind much. The respite from work is always welcome.

I’ve actually enjoyed the snow this time around. It’s been a good opportunity for rest. I’ll enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

Let It… Snow?

With the weather outside the way it is, one would think it was Christmas vacation this week, rather than Thanksgiving. It is beautiful out there, though, and it was a pleasure to walk in it this morning. Snow is definitely preferable at 28 degrees to rain at 36 degrees.

All this snow, however, reminded me of a little childhood wisdom — no two snowflakes are identical. Being now older, wiser, and a little more well-versed in the world of statistics, it has occurred to me to wonder a time or three over the past couple of years just how this can be. Mind you, I wouldn’t put it past an omnipotent God to actually cause every drop of moisture to crystallize into a historically and relationally unique shape once it drops below that all-important threshold of 32 degrees Farenheit (or 0 degrees Centigrade, for those of you using a different system). But by the same token, it occurred to me to wonder just how much proof was really out there on the topic.

So, I ran a “Google”:http://www.google.com “search”:http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=snow+no+two+flakes+identical and “this”:http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_392.html is what I came up with:

**How do they know with any degree of certainty that no two snowflakes are alike? When I took statistics I was taught that to draw a valid conclusion one had to take a representative sample of the entire population. But considering the impossibly large number of flakes in a single snowfall, let alone that have ever fallen, how could snowologists have possibly taken a sample large enough to conclude that no two are alike? –Leslie B. Turner, San Pedro, California**

They didn’t, of course. Chances are, in fact, that there are lots of duplicates. What the snowologists really mean is that your chance of finding duplicates is virtually zero. It’s been calculated that in a volume of snow two feet square by ten inches deep there are roughly one million flakes. Multiply that by the millions of square miles that are covered by snow each year (nearly one fourth of the earth’s land surface), and then multiply that by the billions of winters that have occurred since the dawn of time, and it’s obvious we’re talking unimaginable googols of flakes. Some of these are surely repeats.

On the other hand, a single snow crystal contains perhaps 100 million molecules, which can be arranged in a gigajillion different ways. By contrast, the number of flakes that have ever been photographed in the history of snow research amounts to a few tens of thousands. So it seems pretty safe to say nobody’s ever going to get documentary evidence of duplication. Still, it could happen, and what’s more, Leslie, it could happen to you. The way I figure, anybody who could dream up a question like this has got to have a lot of time on his hands. Get out and start looking.

There are a whole lot of other mathematical discussions on that page, but unless you’re something of a math geek like me, you’ll probably just find it mind-numbingly boring.