Snow Fact #2 – Snowflakes alike

Stop the press! Did you know two snowflakes can be the same?

You may have heard people saying that two snowflakes cannot possibly be identical. Well, it is actually a myth which was busted already 40 years ago!

No scientist ever said that two snowflakes cannot be the same. This idea was made popular by a journalist named Wilson Alwyn Bentley, who was photographing snowflakes in the 1920ies. Bentley sometimes told people that he had never seen two snowflakes that looked alike and published several magazine articles arguing that no two flakes are identical. And it stuck.

Nevertheless Bentley was later proven wrong. Identical snowflakes are rare, but they exist. Evidence of these existing identical snowflakes were found by a scientist named Nancy Knight in the 1988. She was working in the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Wisconsin and studying snowflakes at the time. Knight were examining snowflake-examples from a recent storm and managed to find two identical snow crystals among them. Her discovery was later marked in the Guinness Book of World Records.

This fact may sound pretty world-shaking for some, but after all it makes a great deal of sense. Did we really think that of the infinite amount of snow produced around the world each year, no two flakes are identical?

I must admit that some people are still arguing that snowflakes found by Nancy Knight were not identical in the molecule level. This is probably true, since Knight didn’t go that deep in here research. But does it matter? When we start talking about molecules and atoms, there are very few things that can actually be completely identical. After all Nancy Knight proved that you can find two snowflakes with the same crystal formations and same looks. Isn’t that similar enough? 

Want to know more about similar snowflakes? Here is an interesting article from New York Times. And if you want to read more about the debate going on visit Mental Floss.

This was the second part of out Snow Fact -series! Next fact, next monday! 




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