Bondi Resort Blog

Come on into our Blog for a look at the wonderful world we've got to share! With over 240 hectares (600 acres) of wilderness woodlands surrounding the resort, just ten minutes from Algonquin Park, we feature over 400 metres (1200’) of waterfront and beach; boat rentals; summer hiking trails winding through fields and woods; 20 km. of groomed cross country ski trails and snowshoeing in winter; access to nearby snowmobile trails for sledders, and a toboggan hill for the young at heart.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Letters from Heaven

 If you have a camera (and a balcony) and a piece of glass, a flashlight, some woolen fabric... apparently you can capture images such as these. 

Woolly hats off to Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov  who taped a lens to his camera, set it up on the balcony and took these shots.

Which are breathtaking not only in their detail and clarity, but in their subject matter.

As we slowly sink in Ontario under the weight of the current snowstorms, it is all too easy to lose sight of the trees for the forest. Or more accurately, the flakes for the fall...

Individual snowflakes are among the most intricate and beautiful things on the planet. Each has six sides, and the conventional wisdom is that no two are alike (now, that may be in slight dispute, but finding two alike, well that would require several lifetimes).

Recognizing that snowflakes are six-sided is only the beginning. The bigger question is, why?  What force can produce millions of flakes out of frozen water that -- whether they be flat plates, columns, or spikey stars, all have six sides, and all are different.

Nature likes hexagons. Look at honeycombs, heck out the seeds of pomegranates... but snowflakes seem to take this to a whole new level.

The architecture of snoflakes depends first ont he water molecule itself -- that good old combination of two hydrogens and one oxygen molecules. When water is liquid, those molecules are vibrating and sliding past each other, colliding, recoiling and leaving no space between.  Get the mercury down low enough, however, and that jostling is overcome by electrical forces acting among the molecules, snapping them into fixed positons relative to each other. We call it 'freezing.'

That causes the water molecules to move apart and take a molecules-length position with regard to each other. X-rays of such ice crystals revel a remarkable repeating pattern of hexagons, in turn bonded to other water molecules above, beside, and below.   At the micro level, a mass of ice crystals looks a lot like a honeycomb. 

Under the right atmospheric conditions, a crystal will start to grow (usually by latching onto a microscopic dust particle), adding wter molecules to its edges, but always preserving the underlying hexagonal organization. By the time it is big enough to see, you have a snowflake.

Their actual shape reflects their histories -- if a flake is forming in fairly dry air at -15 C, it will be plate-shaped, but at 10 degrees less than that it will form a solid column.  Feathery Christmas card flakes form in very wet air, at around -14 C.  Add to this the fact that flakes are bounced about -- winds carry them up into colder air, down into warmer, moving them quickly, slowly... with each change, the growing flake will alter its ongoing pattern while preserving what is already there. Tiny differences in temperature or number of available molecules will impact the shape of the growing flake.  You could read the history of that flake by its shape.

The really tough question (and I have no answer, but there is a career in science for you if you chose to go find it out) is how the snowflake knows how to grow at just the right speed that it always balances out and is symmetrical and six-sided.  Speaking of Science, back in 1989, researchers estimated the number of flakes that have fallen on the earth since the beginning of the planet. (No, I don't know how, so just don't ask me)  One estimate is 10 the the 35th -- that'a a one followed by 35 zeroes -- a weight of snow fifty times the mass of the earth, even though each flakes weighs only a millionth of a gram.  Since each of the flakes contains something like 10 to the 18th molecules of water, and those can be arranged in lots of different way (for instance, an individual flake could encounter a million occasions when water molecules have a choice of more than one place to attach as it swirls about before comign to land)  This means it is unlikely (improbable. Some might well say Impossible)  for two flakes to have exactly the same history and therefore
exactly the same shape.

So enjoy them, in their breath-taking beauty for what they really are. Letters from heaven, reminding us how fragile, yet how strong Nature is. We ignore it at our peril, and it is a good lesson to pause and look at the smallest part of winter much more closely.

Thank you very much to Alexey for sharing these incredible pictures.  If you'd like to see how he caught them, go read his blog.


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