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Winter MagicThe following is an excerpt of a paper written by Dr. John A. Adam of Old Dominion University as a review of the of "The Snowflake: Winter's Secret Beauty" by Kenneth Libbrecht.
 

Summary: Winter MagicThe following is an excerpt of a paper written by Dr. John A. Adam of Old Dominion University as a review of the of
"The Snowflake: Winter's Secret Beauty" by Kenneth Libbrecht.
Growing up as a child in southern England, my early memories of snow include trudging
home from school with my father, gazing at the seemingly enormous snowdrifts that
smoothed the hedgerows, fields and bushes, while listening to the soft "scrunch" of the
snow under my Wellington boots. In the country, snow stretching as far as I could see was
not a particularly uncommon sight. The quietness of the land under a foot of snow
seemed eerie. I cannot remember the first time I looked at snowflakes per se; my interests as
a small child were primarily in their spheroidally shaped aggregates as they flew through the
air.
As might be expected, the study of snowflakes is not new; no doubt people have been fasci-
nated by their beauty and symmetry since time immemorial. According to the Chinese
awareness of this was recorded in 135 B.C., while in Europe the Dominican scientist, phi-
losopher, and theologian, Albertus Magnus, studied them around 1260 A.D. Not surpris-
ingly, the astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler was intrigued by snow crystals,
writing a small treatise entitled On the Six-Cornered Snowflake. In 1611 he asked the
fundamental question: There must be some definite cause why, whenever snow begins to fall,
its initial formation invariably displays the shape of a sixcornered starlet. For if it happens
by chance, why do they not fall just as well with five corners or seven? In his treatise he
compared their symmetry with that of honeycombs and the seed arrangement inside pome-

  

Source: Adam, John A. - Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Old Dominion University

 

Collections: Mathematics