The Chemistry of Snowflakes

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYrF3sFBY20?rel=0&w=660&h=371]You know snow, sure you do. But how well do you know snow? Can you look at a snowflake and decipher how and under what conditions it formed? What the temperature was when it branched? Or the humidity?

This video describes the early life cycle of a snowflake, and it’s pretty darn cool. Even though I rather smugly thought I knew more about crystals, I actually learned a thing or two. Note that it’s from the American Chemical Society, so one must be vigilant against propaganda and subliminal messaging (“BPA is good…BPA is good…”), but we vetted it through the AJ labs and it appears to be clean. Still as a precaution, after you’re done, give this Telluride skiing video from Ben Knight a view to act as a disinfectant, just in case.

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{ 2 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Glen

    You may not realize this bit the ACS is a society of chemists and chemical engineers that publishes scientific research though journals it prints. It is does not represent the chemical industry and is run by the members not by the chemical industry. I like the blog but I am not sure why you felt the need to insult a scientific society by comparing it to an advocate of bad science for profit.

  • jfe

    This is an awesome video but I would say that the chemistry only determines the general shape while thermodynamics (ie the the temperature gradient leading to cavities) is the driver of the actual patterns.

    That said I am a little concerned by the comment implying that the ACS is somehow trying to suppress the dangers of BPA. My quick searches have turned up the ACS hosting conferences addressing the response, and publishing papers pointing out that may studies from corporate research groups conflicts directly with academic/governmental research. Additionally, it is in ACS publications where the toxic problems with BPA alternatives are also pointed out.

    While I realize the comment is ment to be tongue in check, the term chemical is neutral and equally applies to many household items like salt, sugar, and water as it does to toxins like BPA. Additionally, just because the ACS is a professional society comments like this go a long way to undermining the the role organisations like the ACS provide in disseminating scientific knowledge. Which is ultimately how problems with BPA and other chemicals become discovered. So to ‘attack’ (again in a loose way) the ACS seems a bit over the top unless you can provide a reference for the accusation.

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