Make your own flake

Dec 20, 2010
Make Your Own Flake

With little more than a plastic soda bottle, some fishing line, a sponge, and dry ice, anyone can make it snow, make it snow, make it snow... one flake at a time.

So says Caltech physicist-turned-snowflake-guru Ken Libbrecht, who recently walked listeners of NPR's Science Friday through a do-it-yourself snowflake-making tutorial.

The home-grown snowmaking process tends to differ from what goes on in a cloud, relying on rather than . But, in the end, creating flakes is about humidity and temperature, with the shape of the crystal depending in large part on how cold it is where it forms.

And, it turns out, are picky about the temperatures at which they'll grow; not every spot on the snowflake-growing fishing line is conducive to creating a crystal. Why not? "It's not understood at all," Libbrecht says, "why the growth of ice depends so sensitively on temperatures." Indeed, that's one of the mysteries Libbrecht is studying in his Caltech lab, where the snowflake growing may be higher-tech, but no less entrancing, than in a soda bottle.

Want to try this at home? You can check out Libbrecht's recipe for creating a white Christmas -- yes, even in Southern California -- at his website.

Explore further: History books spark latest Texas classroom battle

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Close-ups of snowflakes win Lennart Nilsson Award

Oct 25, 2010

The Lennart Nilsson Award for 2010 is to be awarded to the US physicist Kenneth Libbrecht. He is awarded the prize, which is worth SEK 100,000, for his images of snowflakes – images that open our eyes ...

Mysteries of Rain and Snow

Mar 05, 2007

People have lived with rain and snow for millennia, and scientists have studied weather for more than a century. You might think that, after all that time, we would have precipitation pretty much figured out. ...

Recommended for you

History books spark latest Texas classroom battle

Sep 16, 2014

As Texas mulls new history textbooks for its 5-plus million public school students, some academics are decrying lessons they say exaggerate the influence of Christian values on America's Founding Fathers.

Flatow, 'Science Friday' settle claims over grant

Sep 16, 2014

Federal prosecutors say radio host Ira Flatow and his "Science Friday" show that airs on many National Public Radio stations have settled civil claims that they misused money from a nearly $1 million federal ...

User comments : 0