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: Corporate interest is a problem for research into open-access publishing

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

UC Santa Barbara receives $65M from Munger

Oct 30, 2014

A physics institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has received a $65 million donation—the largest single gift in the university's history.

Prophet's ancient seal provides insights from antiquity

Oct 30, 2014

When a personal artifact of a religious leader is discovered nearly 1,700 years after its use, the object provides invaluable historical insights. Zsuzsanna Gulacsi, professor of Comparative Cultural Studies, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.