Digital Fine Art by Tom Greenbaum
Snowflakes have become a passion of mine. In my typical fashion, I latch onto a subject and delve deeply into the story. One result of this journey into the heart of snowflakes has been an appreciation for their inherent beauty, structure and symmetry.
There is no other entity on earth, I think, that captures our imagination and inspires our awe and appreciation of the beauty inherent in nature as does the snowflake. The amazing thing is that for the most part, the snowflake remains a mystery to science. It is true that certain aspects of the crystalline growth and hexagonal geometry can be explained by the molecular structure of H2O and ice. Science knows that there are environmental factors that influence the shape of snowflakes. For example, temperature and humidity obvious effect growth. However, there is much that is not known.
In large part the public owes our appreciation of the beauty to the micro-photographs of one man, the "Snowflake Man," Wilson Bentley. There are a multitude of iconic representations of the snowflake that "float" around during the Christmas holiday season. We have come to take for granted that the vast majority of humans have never witnessed first-hand the reality of what these icons represent. If not for the direct observation of Bentley, none of theses ubiquitous snowflake symbols would exist; we would not even think of the minuscule snow entity as a crystal or even a flake. See: http://snowflakebentley.com/ - Wilson Snowflake Bentley, Photographer of Snowflakes and, http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/historic/nws/nwind27.htm - NOAA photo library of historic snow crystal photography.
The snowflake, for some, is at the center the debate on Evolution versus Creation. The influence of the snowflake crystal upon the human psyche is evident in the writings of these debaters. Here is a well-written article on the subject: http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-162.htm - Evolution and the Snowflake from the Institute for Creation Research. Personally, I do not support the Creationist point of view, however, the article is very interesting nonetheless.
The power of the Low Temperature Scanning Electron Microscope (LT-SEM) turned on the snowflake reveals the true 3D structure. You have not truly seen a snowflake until you have seen them up close and personal at high magnification. See: http://emu.arsusda.gov/snowsite/default.html - Snow Crystal Electron Microscopy and, http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/ - Snowflakes and Snow Crystals.
Global Snow Activity
NASA has an ongoing project to map the global snow and ice activity of the earth. For some fascinating graphics and animations, see: http://snowmelt.gsfc.nasa.gov/ - The MODIS Snow-Ice Global Mapping Project.
Try your hand at genarating some snowflake geometry. See: http://www.am-soft.ru/snowflake.html - Freeware Snowflake Generator by Alexander Milukov.