Todays question: How or Why.

  Chronos the 2nd 08:11 AM 24 Mar 13
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Is it that uncountable amounts of snowflakes fall from the sky and yet each one is different? Or so the scientists would have us believe.

I would imagine it more than possible that there have been two, or more, snowflakes exactly the same. I think the chances of seeing this is pretty slim but that does not make it impossible.

  wiz-king 08:30 AM 24 Mar 13

Your question is typical of a popular misunderstanding of scientific data.

The statement that all snowflakes are different is meaningless unless accompanied with statistical data - if you have a data set of 1000 samples it is probability true with a fair confidence. If you could have a much larger data set of 1000 million the possibility if matching two would be higher. But for most people does it matter? I wont lose any sleep over it.

We are bombarded with these sorts of statements, most of them are sorted out by our brains and filed in the 'it wont happen to me' compartment.

  Quickbeam 08:53 AM 24 Mar 13

You haven't got a definitive answer from yesterday's big question yet.

  hastelloy 09:29 AM 24 Mar 13

If you really have nothing better to do try snowflakes.com or snowcrystals.com.

For a more concise answer to the question (though not definitive) see how do they know.

All I know is that it can all look very pretty but is a pain when I have to go out.

  Chronos the 2nd 09:34 AM 24 Mar 13

You haven't got a definitive answer from yesterday's big question yet.

Due noisy new neighbours who who have taken the word inconsiderate to a new level, I have had plenty of time to mull over yesterdays question.

Here are some thoughts, though I might add not mine.

Ask also whether you're simply evaluating the entire known existence of all energy by the microcosm of laws you experience. As much as you can explain why many humans do things you don't understand either; you can't possibly conceive everything. Get philosophical and stop thinking linearly: what if the universe is expanding into nothing? Can you perceive or imagine nothing? What if everything exists at once as its been proven that time is only perceptual not actual? Then there's also multiverses and all sorts of hypothesis. You can go the other way and wonder what keeps energy doing what it does - right down to its smallest state?

I believe the question of the origins of the universe will never be answered even if I lived several lifetimes so I have turned my night-time musing to snowflakes.

  Quickbeam 09:59 AM 24 Mar 13

Mankind didn't get where it is today by giving up so easily on difficult issues to muse over unique snowflakes...

  Chronos the 2nd 10:39 AM 24 Mar 13

Not giving up as such just moving on as it is a question I can always return to.

  Forum Editor 11:05 AM 24 Mar 13

The most intricate snowflake form is called a dendritic flake. These are six pointed, and are beautiful and intricate in structure. The chances are good that each one is unique.

Snowflake structure depends on the temperature and on humidity, and the simpler forms of needles and hexagons are almost certainly not unique, although there's no way it can be scientifically demonstrated.

  Chronos the 2nd 16:01 PM 24 Mar 13

"Everybody's Fingerprints are different so we can now add snow flakes to that."

But can we? How many incalculable billions of snowflakes have fallen on this planet yet we are expected to believe that no two are the same.

  Forum Editor 16:17 PM 24 Mar 13

Chronos the 2nd

"...yet we are expected to believe that no two are the same."

Are we? I hadn't heard that. As I pointed out earlier, the chances are good that where some types of snowflakes are concerned there are many that are identical, or as near identical as makes no difference.

The chance of every dendritic snowflake being unique is much higher. It's probable that they all are, but of course nobody knows for sure.

  Chronos the 2nd 16:33 PM 24 Mar 13

"We’ve all heard that no two snowflakes are alike, and that’s true of the star-shaped ones.

On the other hand, column-type snowflakes have simple, solid prism shapes – much as if you cut a section out of a lead pencil. While the ratio of their length to thickness can vary, column-type snowflakes don’t have a complicated structure. Many are very much alike."

My thanks to:

Dr. Charles Knight

National Centre for Atmospheric Research

Boulder, CO

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