No two snowflakes alike? Guess again

A Wisconsin snowflake: Photo NASA
A Wisconsin snowflake: Photo NASA

We've all heard that no two snowflakes are alike. But a scientist in Japan argues it ain't necessarily so.

As each water molecule freezes onto the forming ice crystal, a snowflake can take billions and billions of different shapes. But, each year, billions and billions of snowflakes fall to Earth. Over time, the number of flakes that have fallen exceeds the number of possible shapes, meaning that -- at least for the smaller, simpler flakes -- there must be some duplicates.

Of course, Cecil Adams addressed this topic with his usual wit and flair some time ago.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i thought snowflakes were all diffrent.

posted on Tue, 01/23/2007 - 8:25am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

snow flakes are different because they fall through humidity, moisture, temperature, and a path. No two snow flakes can travel through the exact same path ex. ex. even in time.

posted on Wed, 02/21/2007 - 12:38am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

no two snowflakes are identical on a microscopic level

posted on Sun, 02/25/2007 - 6:48pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

That is not what the research found.

posted on Mon, 02/26/2007 - 9:27am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

It's really argumental. If there are alike ones it would be almost impossible to find. Think a billion snowflakes fall every sec. More then that. So its possible to have alike but it would be almost impossible to prove.

posted on Thu, 04/12/2007 - 6:14am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

You do not know for sure that there are 2 snowflakes EXACTLY alike, becuase there are some that fall in other countrys that can be aliike and you would not know that ther were there are snowflakes. In other states that you havent ever seen adn they also can be alike.

posted on Wed, 08/20/2008 - 8:33am
about's picture
about says:

Conditions vary from place to place. So, to say two snowflakes are exactly alike, both would have to experience exactly the same environment, which is highly unlikely. What aren't mentioned are the microscopic imperfections in the crystal lattice. When accounting for these, absolutely no two snowflakes would be the same.

posted on Sat, 11/29/2008 - 4:22pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

When you get down to the atomic level, no two anything are exactly alike. But that is not how the statement "no two snowflakes are alike" is generally understood. It is taken to refer to the size, shape and pattern of the flake. And in that case, yes, duplicates are pretty much inevitable.

After all, the difference between "impossible" and "inevitable" often boils down to sample size.

posted on Sat, 12/06/2008 - 9:11pm
Addy's picture
Addy says:

Dear Gene, I think ur observation is wonerful!!!!!

posted on Sun, 12/07/2008 - 2:43pm
Snowflake's picture
Snowflake says:

they are not alike and that is cool

posted on Thu, 02/03/2011 - 9:58am
AidanAngel's picture
AidanAngel says:

" it ain't necessarily so."
Whoever posted this clearly has no idea what they are talking about using terms like "ain't" which isn't even a real word.

posted on Wed, 03/09/2011 - 9:59pm

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