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19th-Century Photographer Captured 5,000 Snowflakes

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the more-science-than-art dept.

Graphics 80

tcd004 writes "Wilson Bentley began photographing snowflakes in 1885, and managed to immortalize more than 5,000 crystals before his death in 1931. Now his images are widely recognized and highly sought after. At the age of 19, 'Snowflake' Bentley jury-rigged a microscope to a bulky bellows camera and took the first-ever photograph of a snowflake. Photography then, particularly microphotography, was much closer to science than art. In a 1910 article published in the journal Technical World, he wrote, 'Here is a gem bestrewn realm of nature possessing the charm of mystery, of the unknown, sure richly to reward the investigator." The video embedded at the link above touches on another long-forgotten piece of history: a sketch of the photographers who captured arial views of assemblages of tens of thousands of soldiers returning from WW-I, carefully choreographed and arranged to form a Liberty Bell, a Stature of Liberty, a US flag... as forgotten as the origin of the WW-I term razzle-dazzle.

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Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0, Offtopic)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050410)

Sayeth thy worst to this befuddled reader of text.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0, Offtopic)

itsenrique (846636) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050420)

jury rigged a microscope eh? sounds like evidence for a court case was being forged or doctored. i always thought the term was jerry rigged, but maybe its regional.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050502)

Well, in most parts of the country, the term is still "nigger-rigged", at least as long as the politically correct aren't in earshot.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050670)

There's a pubic hair on my keyboard. What the fuck?? I "mow the lawn" so it's not mine. Gross.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (1, Offtopic)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050542)

It should be spelled jerry-rigged is a slight on World War I Germans.
    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=jerry-rigged [etymonline.com]
Jury-rigged is apparently an acceptable term derived from French.
    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=jury [etymonline.com]

Personally, I spell it jerry but pronounce it jury.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0, Offtopic)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050702)

The ships to be jury rigged: that is, to have smaller masts, yards and rigging than would be required for actual service. The rigging of the vessels is proposed for the purpose of exercising the young men who chuse to engage in the fishery in the practical art of seamanship

A tour in England and Scotland, in 1785 By William Thomson [google.com]

The book was published in 1788... Is that old enough for you?

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0, Offtopic)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050728)

The book was published in 1788... Is that old enough for you?

Irk? I already referred to this form with the second link. Note though that
"temporary" rigging lacks the negative connotation of "bubblegum & bailing wire"
or "mickey-moused" that jerry-rigged implies.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (1, Offtopic)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050760)

Note though that "temporary" rigging lacks the negative connotation of
"bubblegum & bailing wire" or "mickey-moused" that jerry-rigged implies.

So actually, yeah, the original use of jury-rigged was appropriate here.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0, Offtopic)

LearnToSpell (694184) | more than 4 years ago | (#31052400)

Baling. I think you need bailing wire when your jury's been rigged. :-)

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050804)

much as I like to argue about whether it's jerry-rigged or jury-rigged, or that other rude term, you're all missing one very important point:
THIS STORY BELONGS IN THE IDLE SECTION

Thank you.

"THIS STORY BELONGS IN THE IDLE SECTION" (0, Offtopic)

baomike (143457) | more than 4 years ago | (#31053654)

It is.

It's neither... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050636)

i always thought the term was jerry rigged, but maybe its regional.

The appropriate term you're looking for is "MacGyver'd".

Re:It's neither... (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050692)

That's probably the only variation where there's a positive tilt. If you've MacGyvered something generally it's expected you made something brilliant with almost impossible resources. All the others look at it as assembling a substandard solution based on a random assortment of garbage.

Re:It's neither... (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050822)

you made something brilliant with almost impossible resources

The glass is half-full ...

assembling a substandard solution based on a random assortment of garbage

... and the glass is half-empty.

Personally, I like to resolve this by saying that the glass is at 50% capacity.

Re:It's neither... (1)

Plunky (929104) | more than 4 years ago | (#31051544)

Personally, I like to resolve this by saying that the glass is at 50% capacity.

No, no.. we have used 50% of the capacity of the glass!

Re:It's neither... (1)

drkim (1559875) | more than 4 years ago | (#31067674)

No, the glass was constructed too large by 100%

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31051106)

"Jury-rigged", or "Jerry-built"; both mean the same, both are correct. "Jerry-rigged" is technically wrong, although is in common use anyway. "Jury-rigged" has a nautical derivation, whereas "Jerry-built" is a slight upon the Germans.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31052140)

> i always thought the term was jerry rigged,

That's because you're a fucking idiot.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (2, Interesting)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050486)

It's not a grammar note, but this link [hammergallery.com] to the human Statue of Liberty thing would've been nice to include.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0, Offtopic)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050770)

Sayeth thy worst to this befuddled reader of text.

I think you meant "thine" (that which belongs to thee).

Also, it's "wurst", not "worst". Speakers of Ye Olde English were big on sausages. And ale. Lots of ale. And wenches, of course.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31051452)

Also, it's "wurst", not "worst". Speakers of Ye Olde English were big on sausages. And ale. Lots of ale. And wenches, of course.

Wenches? In fact, forget about the sausages.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0, Offtopic)

siride (974284) | more than 4 years ago | (#31053018)

No, "thy" is quite correct here, although "sayeth" isn't. The singular imperative quite boringly had no ending in Early Modern English (or late Middle Engish -- whichever the OP was going for). "Thine" was the original form, and over time came only to be used before words starting with a vowel or when standing alone (as "mine" still is) and "thy", a shortened form, was used before consonants and eventually took over as the sole adjectival form (as "my" still is).

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050936)

Ðu ðinum broðrum to banan wurde, heafodmægum. Ðæs ðu in helle scealt werhðo dreogan.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31051372)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of that.
oh wait.

Re:Bring forth ye Olde English Grammar Nazis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31052576)

Töflunum skal kyngja heilum, ær má hvorki mylja né tyggja. Geymið i upprunalegum umbúðum til varnar gegn raka og ljósi.

Arial? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050416)

Ariel: A character in "The Tempest". Also "The Little Mermaid".
Aerial: existing or living or growing or operating in the air
Arial: A font from Monotype.

Re:Arial? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050840)

Ariel: also a commonly cited name for a demon or evil spirit.

He was using Ninnle, of course. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050466)

Ninnle was able to do so much, even back then.

Ninnle Linux...the choice of a Ninnle generation.

Public Domain (5, Informative)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050474)

Follow the "snowflakes" link and look at the bottom of the page:

Copyright/Public domain works
Wilson Bentley did not copyright his photographs and thus they are in the public domain and free to use for any purpose.
HOWEVER
No materials or images from this (or any other) website may be resold in any form (print or electronic).
The Public Domain status does not give you the right to resell material unless you have access to the original source and permission from the owner to reproduce the material. Any published works of Public Domain material is only "Royalty free" if explicitly stated.

WTF? Someone just doesn't understand what Public Domain really is.

Re:Public Domain (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050540)

That would be you. You can copyright works containing public domain artwork. Only the original photographs are in the public domain, not the reproductions offered by the site.

Re:Public Domain (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050594)

(Sigh) Bridgeman v. Corel [wikipedia.org] says otherwise.

Re:Public Domain (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050734)

I would have modded you +1, but that "(Sigh)" really bugs me :p

btw, does a watermark count as making it an original work?

Re:Public Domain (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050764)

(I'm the annoying sigher; apologies) No. A spark of originality/creativity is part of the requirement for copyrightability. (above case and Feist v. Rural Telephone [wikipedia.org] )

Re:Public Domain (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31053670)

*sigh* frak you to the depths of *sigh* hades!

Re:Public Domain (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050748)

Actually, no it doesn't. First, Bridgeman, while influential, isn't settled law; it is, after all, only a district court opinion, although admittedly from a highly influential court. Second, Bridgeman does not say that every photograph that includes a public domain work in the image is in the public domain, only that a "slavish copy" does not have sufficient originality to be copyrightable. The website video is certainly copyrightable, even though it contains some pictures of prints on display at the museum, and you cannot extract from it the frames that show exhibit prints of the snowflakes and claim those frames are in the public domain. If anything, Bridgeman was probably an example of bad lawyering, since the lawyer never attempted to dispute the "slavish copying" allegation made by the defendant.

So you could not make an exact copy of a public domain image and get a copyright in your copy, but put the image into a movie, or put the image into a picture that you can show was creatively lit or arranged, and you probably can.

Re:Public Domain (3, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050772)

I don't see why a still from the movie that consists of nothing except a verbatim copy of the original photograph wouldn't be in the public domain. If the movie itself has creative arrangement it may be copyrightable as a work, but that doesn't mean that any subsidiary parts of the movie that were drawn from the public domain magically get a new copyright as part of the new work.

For example, if I quote a public-domain poem in a new novel, the entire work (novel+poem) is copyrighted, but anyone may extract that poem from my novel and use it without my permission.

Re:Public Domain (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31052256)

PBS puts watermarks on their videos, so arguably a screenshot could arguably be not a "verbatim copy" (by very persistent lawyers, no doubt).

- RG>

Re:Public Domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31053372)

(Sigh) Bridgeman is only a district court case. Other courts are not required to follow. It has been favorably cited in a number of other cases. Nevertheless, if you don't live in S.D.N.Y and you rely on Bridgement to protect you, you may find yourself in a world of hurt.

Re:Public Domain (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#31062292)

However, you cannot claim ownership to what already is public domain. Sure, you can make a new work consisting of parts that are public domain. If your work is creative, it can then be copyrighted. But the original public domain parts remain public domain and not subject to royalties.

Fascinating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31050530)

Maybe tomorrow we can hear about Charles Dickens.

Dazzle Camouflage (4, Informative)

AtomicSnarl (549626) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050768)

For those wondering how wild colors and stripes on ships would hide them from U-Boats -- it didn't. It made it hard for the U-Boat captains to properly evaluate their targets. The colors and pattern would disrupt the length, angle, and speed clues seen though binoculars at a distance, and through the periscope when preparing to fire torpedoes.

Radar didn't exist during WWI, so U-Boats cruised on the surface with lookouts who could eyeball ships or ship smoke at 10 miles, maybe 20 on a good day. Given their 15-18 knot surface speed [k12.nc.us] and 6-8 knot submerged speed, the U-Boat now had only 30 minutes or so to get into proper position ahead of the approaching ship -- about 4000-6000 yards (2-3 nautical miles) ahead and to one side of the approaching target. WWI German torpedoes [wikipedia.org] could travel 6600 yards at 36 knots, for a max run time of just over 5 minutes. A target ship moving at 12 knots would move 400 yards in a minute. A 600 foot ship travels it's length in only 30 seconds. It's this tiny window that the Razzle-Dazzle would screw up. If the U-Boat captain guessed wrong on the ships movement due to painted false bow waves and extra bow/stern lines, the firing solution would be bad.

Remember that the ship view from the U-Boat was usually against cloudy skies of some sort in the North Atlantic. Add in the blue haze with distance, and the yellows, purples, and pinks start to blur into the background blue-gray sky. Now think of that sight through a wet periscope a few feet above the water, and you get the idea.

WWII had a brilliant camoufalge example in the bizarre sounding Pink Spitfires [airplane-pictures.net] used for reconnaissance [ipmsstockholm.org] . The pink shade was selected to blend against the just-past-sunset twilight sky and clouds when those aircraft flew, and it was very effective.

Re:Dazzle Camouflage (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31051312)

Correct. However the link in the summary is incorrect - dazzle camouflage was widely used in WWII. Some of the schemes used by the USN can be seen here [navy.mil] .
 
It's worth pointing out however that proper studies of the effectiveness of dazzle camouflage seem to have never been carried out.

Re:Dazzle Camouflage (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31051738)

Radar didn't exist during WWI, so U-Boats cruised on the surface with lookouts who could eyeball ships or ship smoke at 10 miles, maybe 20 on a good day.

Actaully, WWII boats also cruise on the surface looking for targets; once they found one they would maneuver to intercept and make a submerged attack run. It wasn't until nuclear power submarines came into existence that the submarine was transformed from a surface vessel that attacked submerged to a true submarine. Adm Flukey, amongst others, began cruising with the periscope fully extended to be able to see further over the horizon.

Yes, I realize the snorkel enabled longer under water operations, and that there are other propulsion systems that enable sustained underwater operations; but nuke boats were the technology that really changed submarine warfare.

Re:Dazzle Camouflage (1)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 4 years ago | (#31051782)

If you happen to be in London, take a walk down the Thames and you'll see HMS Belfast in her dazzle http://www.edwud.com/photos/hms_belfast.jpg [edwud.com]

Re:Dazzle Camouflage (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31052748)

"Pink" and "broken outlines" still works, note that Stealth aircraft are black to appeal to aircrew. Black isn't optimal for the night ops required by stealth systems, which is why WWII night fighters were often a lighter color.

Factory stealth camo:

http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/f-117-camo.jpg [fas.org]

Re:Dazzle Camouflage (1)

Yo_mama (72429) | more than 4 years ago | (#31053930)

In addition to the pink spitfires, there were pink ships: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountbatten_pink [wikipedia.org] [Wikipedia]

A couple of the photos in the "razzle dazzle" article were of WWII ships and not WWI as implied. Razzle Dazzle itself was not an official term used by the US Navy and I don't believe the Royal Navy either, albeit I'm less sure of that.

Re:Dazzle Camouflage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31058492)

Dazzle and the whole underlying idea is neat. I have no idea why there's a link to it in the summary, which is ostensibly about snowflake photos. Or, wait, was it Liberty Bell infantry formations?

The editors aren't even trying anymore.

Off topic (4, Funny)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050788)

I'm wondering who this advertiser [yfrog.com] thinks they're going to make money off of here at slashdot.
Just saw it to the right of the /. homepage.

Re:Off topic (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050796)

Hm, you'll note I went to the trouble of painting out my username in mspaint.
Even though it is clearly visible with every post I make at slashdot.
I need another beer.

Re:Off topic (1)

csokat (547215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050924)

You also just admitted to using mspaint

Re:Off topic (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 4 years ago | (#31050930)

I love mspaint, Linux has nothing on it.

Re:Off topic (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31051192)

Do you work for them or something?

I mean, do you seriously suppose that nobody knows how advertising works on the internet? The ad is not on slashdot, it was targeted at you personally because your browser reported that you have been browsing sites that the ad server associates with you having an interest in scantily clad models..

AdBlockPlus ffs!

Re:Off topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31055202)

Im seeing the same ad on Slashdot, and nowhere else.

Re:Off topic (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31057610)

I imagine there's a number of slashdotters who can afford an "escort" like that. I hear those guys like to buy those girls gifts for some reason...

Shame they don't show the photographs. (2, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 4 years ago | (#31051296)

It would have been nice to see how they looked.

Re:Shame they don't show the photographs. (1)

need4mospd (1146215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31052470)

Yeah, it sure would be nice if you actually watched the video embedded in the site that the summary recommends you watch.

Re:Shame they don't show the photographs. (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 4 years ago | (#31052492)

I don't want to watch a video. I want to see the photographs. I haven't got the patience or attention span to sit and watch videos. Just give me the photos and a page of text.

Re:Shame they don't show the photographs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31052624)

Just give me the photos and a page of text.

Here you go:

http://snowflakebentley.com/snowflakes.htm

Re:Shame they don't show the photographs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31053440)

At least you had time to post a complaint about it..

Re:Shame they don't show the photographs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31151686)

It would have been nice to see how they looked.

They truly are beautiful. I have a collection that has been handed down to me, and I can tell you first-hand that they are very intricate and detailed - and each is one of a kind; some very beautiful, and others not so attractive but still incredible to look at.

Contemporary Counterpart (1)

Phat_Tony (661117) | more than 4 years ago | (#31051336)

As a photographer, I've been a fan of Snowflake Bentley for a long time.

His contemporary counterpart is Ken Libbrecht. [caltech.edu]

As good as the shoulder's I've stood on before? (1)

Phat_Tony (661117) | more than 4 years ago | (#31051374)

In the linked video, at 1:44 the narrator says

Gallileo said "I'm only as good as those shoulders I've stood on before,"

which nearly had me rolling around on the floor laughing.

I think he's trying to reference Newton's statement "If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

Re:As good as the shoulder's I've stood on before? (2, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31051974)

I think he's trying to reference Newton's statement "If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

I can see where he got confused; Galileo was in fact one of the "giants" Newton was referencing in the quote (Kepler was another). The great thing about that quote is that it's actually a stealth insult. Newton wrote it to a rival named Robert Hooke, who was somewhat, um, short. That exact wording is Newton's, and it is the best known expression of the thought, but the metaphor predates Newton considerably; the earliest known example of it was by Bernard of Chartres around 1130, and it was commonly used throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Re:As good as the shoulder's I've stood on before? (1)

Estragib (945821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31079218)

Much earlier than that in a different part of the world, it was customary for Buddhist and Taoist monks to sign their written musings not with their own name but those of their teachers.

Re:As good as the shoulder's I've stood on before? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098088)

Acknowledging that you've built on the work of those who came before you is universal and goes back before recorded history. What I was talking about was the specific imagery of standing on your predecessors' shoulders.

Re:As good as the shoulder's I've stood on before? (1)

Estragib (945821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31098430)

While I don't know anything about that, you're probably right. Anyway, I wasn't going for "Wrong, this is how it really was" but for "Oh, this reminds me". I should have been clearer.

Resources (1)

Phat_Tony (661117) | more than 4 years ago | (#31051430)

Two Books by Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley:

Snowflakes in Photographs [amazon.com]
Snow Crystals [amazon.com]

Three books about Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley:

The Snowflake Man: A Biography of Wilson A. Bentley [amazon.com]
My Brother Loved Snowflakes: The Story of Wilson A. Bentley, the Snowflake Man [amazon.com]
Snowflake Bentley [amazon.com]

Re:Resources (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 4 years ago | (#31052758)

And today we have entire web sites dedicated to precious snowflakes [facebook.com] .

Why? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31052044)

It's said that no flake is equal to another, which is amazing de per se.

But I'm intrigued by the constant symmetry.

I can understand crystals and why they form natural patterns, like prisms or cubes, but given that everyone is different why an arm (or leg) is equal to the other? Maybe they form together (hence they grow identical) and then split somehow?

Any geologist or spelunker in the room?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31052710)

Lots of research on the growth properties of ice crystals. Look up Ukichiro Nakaya. He grew crystals on spider webs in different environments. He also made great pictures too!

Re:Why? (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 4 years ago | (#31053500)

I read about this once. Basically the shape of a snowflake is determined by the exact conditions over the course of the formation of the snowflake. This is why finding two identical snowflakes is so unlikely. That being said, apparently the vast majority of snow flakes aren't symmetrical. It's just that they aren't pretty so no one posts pictures of them. According to this site <URL: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/class/class.htm> (run by a Caltech physics prof, its got amazing info and pictures of snowflakes), "The most common snow crystals by far are the irregular crystals. These are small, usually clumped together, and show little of the symmetry seen in stellar or columnar crystals."

In any case, the reason for the "perfect" symmetry that you can find it, "As the crystal becomes larger, however, branches begin to sprout from the six corners of the hexagon (this is the third stage in the diagram at right). Since the atmospheric conditions (e. g. temperature and humidity) are nearly constant across the small crystal, the six budding arms all grow out at roughly the same rate.".

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31055044)

> "The most common snow crystals by far are the irregular crystals. These are small, usually clumped together, and show little of the symmetry seen in stellar or columnar crystals."

If two symmetrical crystals get clumped together and hence become irregular, that nonetheless doesn't invalidate the perfect symmetry extant before the clumping. Thus the mistery persists...

> "As the crystal becomes larger, however, branches begin to sprout from the six corners of the hexagon (this is the third stage in the diagram at right). Since the atmospheric conditions (e. g. temperature and humidity) are nearly constant across the small crystal, the six budding arms all grow out at roughly the same rate."

Of course, branches growing from all corners don't have to form the same way -- under any atmospheric condition. Were this to be a sufficient explanation, a number of equal flakes would be formed -- all under the same conditions.

I'm sorry but this explanation looks illogical to me.

From the cited page:

> What synchronizes the growth of the six arms?
Nothing. The six arms of a snow crystal all grow independently, as described in the previous section. But since they grow under the same randomly changing conditions, all six end up with similar shapes.

And why don't they all turn left? Since they are under the same conditions, they would all turn left. Or right. See how pointless?

> If you think this is hard to swallow, let me assure you that the vast majority of snow crystals are not very symmetrical. Don't be fooled by the pictures -- irregular crystals (see the Guide to Snowflakes) are by far the most common type.

Even so, the photos do a superb job of showing striking symmetry. Should it exist in the first place? Does it have something to do with Saturn's hexagon? (ok, the last part admittedly just for show)

> If you don't believe me, just take a look for yourself next time it snows.

It may take a while where I live. Maybe centuries.

> Near-perfect, symmetrical snow crystals are fun to look at, but they are not common.

Looking at the the Guide to Snowflakes I have the exact opposite impression. One (maybe 2) is not symmetrical.

From http://physics.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_symmetry_of_snowflakes [suite101.com]

> Molecular Structure

> The growth of snowflakes and other ice crystals is determined by the molecular structure of water itself. Water is made of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. The two hydrogen atoms attach chemically to the oxygen atom at angles making a V-shaped molecule. Three V's can connect together to make a molecule with six arms. Actually, the crystal growth is messier and more complex than this, but crystals have self-similarity. This means that the atomic geometry of any crystal is reflected in it's macroscopic structure.

Ok, now we have material for an hypothesis. The V-like water molecules can be influenced both by the instant weather varying conditions _and_ by other nearby molecules (they have an electrical property because of the V-shape.

See: http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/sci/A0861883.html [infoplease.com]

> Many of the physical and chemical properties of water are due to its structure. The atoms in the water molecule are arranged with the two H-O bonds at an angle of about 105 rather than on directly opposite sides of the oxygen atom. The asymmetrical shape of the molecule arises from a tendency of the four electron pairs in the valence shell of oxygen to arrange themselves symmetrically at the vertices of a tetrahedron around the oxygen nucleus. The two pairs associated with covalent bonds (see chemical bond) holding the hydrogen atoms are drawn together slightly, resulting in the angle of 105 between these bonds. This arrangement results in a polar molecule, since there is a net negative charge toward the oxygen end (the apex) of the V-shaped molecule and a net positive charge at the hydrogen end. The electric dipole gives rise to attractions between neighboring opposite ends of water molecules, with each oxygen being able to attract two nearby hydrogen atoms of two other water molecules.

For emphasis:

> This means that the atomic geometry of any crystal is reflected in it's macroscopic structure.

See how snow flakes look like they're made of "V"s... it's kinda fractalish...

That way, the same temperature/humidity conditions would act on all arms all the time and "molecular properties" (including but not limited to polarity) would cause particular crystal growth; were the flakes to stay under the same conditions, I hypothesize they'd be perfect and equal.

But wind carries them apart to different subspaces (Sci-Fi, huh?) and different atmo conditions.

Or not.

"Long Forgotten"? (1)

lenroc (632180) | more than 4 years ago | (#31052372)

I don't really think Snowflake Bentley has been "long forgotten", as the summary implies. Our homeschooled children just finished a unit study on him a few weeks ago (which doesn't prove anything of course except that he's still well known enough for there to be unit studies made available on him...).

In fact, a book about him, appropriately titled Snowflake Bentley [amazon.com] won the Caldecott medal as recently as 1999!

Old photos (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054972)

The video embedded at the link above touches on another long-forgotten piece of history: a sketch of the photographers who captured arial views of assemblages of tens of thousands of soldiers returning from WW-I, carefully choreographed and arranged to form a Liberty Bell, a Stature of Liberty, a US flag... as forgotten as the origin of the WW-I term razzle-dazzle.

Fans of old photos should look up the classic survey of the San Francisco earthquake, which were taken by kite-borne cameras.

Oh, and Linux fans will want to check out S.S. War Penguin at the razzle-dazzle link.

It's photomicroscopy, not tiny, tiny pictures (1)

Tom DBA (607149) | more than 4 years ago | (#31055062)

A microphotograph is a very small photo. Like the micro dots spys used to send under postage stamps or the flaps of envelopes. A photomicrograph is a photo taken through a microscope. I think he took photomicrographs or micrographs.

Good collection of his photos & data here (1)

penguinchris (1020961) | more than 4 years ago | (#31056192)

Bentley donated the original glass plates to the Buffalo Museum of Science (a city known for snow itself, though Bentley did most of his work in Vermont as far as I know). They have many of them scanned, and include data about each photo as well. See it here. [sciencebuff.org]

I'm from Buffalo and have been to the museum countless times; after learning about Bentley I am always amazed that they don't capitalize on it with some sort of exhibit. Seems like it would be a nice attraction to a museum that otherwise seems to be having trouble encouraging attendance and keeping up the collections.

Dr Max Box (1)

dugeen (1224138) | more than 4 years ago | (#31059190)

No doubt this material would have been of enormous use to poor Dr Max Box and his quest for two identical snowflakes.
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