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Scientific Community

Learn how the scientific community shares results and monitors scientific integrity.

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Snowflake Fingerprints
Teacher Contributed

Snowflake Fingerprints

Why It Matters

Is it true that snowflakes are as unique as our fingerprints?

One of the more unique forms that water can take on, the snowflake, has always captured people’s fascination. What do you think? Can two snowflakes be identical?

Caltech’s Professor Kenneth G. Libbrecht has done a lot of research on this topic: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/alike/alike.htm

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  1. In order to make a more informed conclusion, learn a little more about the formation and various shapes of snowflakes with this interactive site: http://www.teachersdomain.org/asset/lsps07_int_snowflakes/ Try to answer the following questions as you go:
    1. Are snowflakes frozen raindrops?
    2. What two variables affect the shape of the snowflake?
    3. Why is the statement, “No two snowflakes are alike” difficult to answer?
    4. Sketch three different types of snowflakes and list two unique characteristics for each.
  2. Want to grow your own snowflake? Here is a suggested set-up: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/project/project.htm
  3. Sometimes scientists don’t see eye to eye! One of the critical steps in the scientific method is sharing and communicating with the scientific community. Here are a few examples that Professor Kenneth Libbrecht points out: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/myths/myths.htm What do you think of these three examples? Do you agree with him? Are these simply myths or do they have a solid scientific foundation?
  4. What do Martian snowflakes look like? Recently MIT researchers collected data on this! Check it out: http://news.discovery.com/space/the-foggy-carbon-dioxide-snow-of-mars-120619.html What do you think snowflakes on other planets might look like?

Resources Cited

Wilson Bentley. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASnowflakesWilsonBentley.jpg

Kenneth G. Libbrecht. Caltech. http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/alike/alike.htm



Teacher’s Domain. http://www.teachersdomain.org/asset/lsps07_int_snowflakes/

Discovery News. http://news.discovery.com/space/the-foggy-carbon-dioxide-snow-of-mars-120619.html

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