Can the two be perfectly identical snowflakes?

Ever heard the phrase "this snowflake - very special", they say, because they are usually a lot and they are all beautiful, unique and fascinating, if you look closely. An old proverb says that there are no two identical snowflakes, but if this is true, really? How could this claim have not reviewed all of the falling snowflakes and fallen? Suddenly snowflake anywhere in Moscow is no different from snowflakes somewhere in the Alps.

Can the two be perfectly identical snowflakes?

, we need to know as a snowflake is born and how likely (or unlikely) that two identical born to address this issue from a scientific point of view.

Can the two be perfectly identical snowflakes?

Snowflake, taken using a conventional optical microscope

Snowflake, essentially, it is only water molecules which bind to each other in a specific configuration of the solid. Most of these configurations have some sort of hexagonal symmetry; this is due to how water molecules to their specific valence angles - defined physics oxygen atom, two hydrogen atoms, and electromagnetic force - can be linked together. The simplest microscopic crystal snow that can be seen under a microscope, the size of one millionth of a meter (1 micron) and can be very simple shape, such as a hexagonal plate crystal. Its width is about 10,000 atoms, and like him very much.

Can the two be perfectly identical snowflakes?

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Nancy Knight of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, serendipitously discovered two identical snowflakes, studying snow crystals during a snow storm in Wisconsin, taking a microscope. But when the representatives of certifying two snowflakes to be identical, they can mean only that the snowflakes are identical to the accuracy of the microscope; when physics requires that two things are identical, they must be identical to within a subatomic particle. This means:

  • you need the same particles
  • in the same configurations, the
  • with the same connections with each other
  • in two completely different macroscopic systems.

Let's see how it could be arranged.

Can the two be perfectly identical snowflakes?

One water molecule - is one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms linked to each other. When frozen water molecules bind to each other, each molecule gets close to four other linked molecules: one for each of the tetrahedral vertices of each individual molecule. This leads to the fact that water molecules are formed in a lattice form: hexagonal (or hexagonal) crystal lattice. But large "blocks" of ice, as in the quartz deposits are extremely rare. When you look at the smallest scale and configuration, you find that the top and bottom plane of the lattice and packed very tightly linked: you have "flat faces" on the two sides. on the left side of the molecule are more open, and more water molecules bind to them more freely. In particular, the hexagonal corners are the weakest connection, so we have seen a six-fold symmetry in the growth of crystals.

Can the two be perfectly identical snowflakes?

Formation and growth of snowflakes, private configuration ice crystal

New structures and then grow at the same symmetrical patterns, hexagonal increasing asymmetry reaches a certain size. In large, complex snow crystals hundreds of easily distinguishable features when viewed under a microscope. Hundreds features include about 10 19 water molecules that comprise the usual flake, according to Charles Knight, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. At each of these functions, there are millions of possible locations, where they can form new branches. How many can form such new features snowflake and it does not become another of the many? Every year around the world falls to about 10 15 (quadrillion) cubic meters of snow on the ground, and each cubic meter contains several billion (10 9) of individual snowflakes. As the Earth there are about 4, 5 billion years, the history of the planet has fallen 10 34 snowflakes. And you know how much a statistical point of view of individual, unique, symmetrical branching features could have expected a snowflake and double at some point in Earth's history? Only five. Whereas at present, large, natural snowflakes they are usually hundreds.

Can the two be perfectly identical snowflakes?

Even at the level of one millimeter to a snowflake, you can see the imperfections that are difficult to duplicate

And only on the mundane level, you can see the erroneous two identical snowflakes. And if you are willing to go down to the molecular level, the situation will become much worse. Usually oxygen 8 protons and neutrons 8, and a hydrogen atom and 0 1 proton neutrons. But 1 of 500 oxygen atoms has 10 neutrons in 1 out of 5,000 atoms of hydrogen has one neutron instead of 0. Even if you form perfect hexagonal crystals of snow, and in the history of planet Earth counted 10 34 snow crystals enough will fall to sizes of several thousand molecules (smaller than the wavelength of visible light), to find a unique structure, which the planet has never seen before.

Can the two be perfectly identical snowflakes?

But if you ignore the atomic and molecular differences and abandon the "natural", you will have a chance. Researcher Kenneth Libbrecht snowflakes of the California Institute of Technology has developed a technique to create artificial "identical twins" snowflakes and photographed them using a special microscope called SnowMaster 9000. Growing them side by side in the lab, he showed that it is possible to create two snowflakes that are indistinguishable.

Can the two be perfectly identical snowflakes?

Two nearly identical snowflakes grown in the laboratory at Caltech

Almost. They will be distinguished man who looks with his own eyes through a microscope, but they will not be identical to the truth. As identical twins, they will have a lot of differences: they will have different positions in the molecule bundle, different properties of branching, and the more they are, the more these differences. That is why these snowflakes are very small and powerful microscope: they are more similar to when less complex.

Can the two be perfectly identical snowflakes?

Two nearly identical snowflakes grown in the laboratory at Caltech

Nevertheless, many snowflakes resemble one another. But if you're looking for a really identical snowflakes on a structural, molecular or atomic scale, nature has never you do not will present. Such a large number of possibilities not only for the history of the Earth, but also for the history of the universe. If you want to know how many planets you need to get two identical snowflakes for 13, 8 billion years of the universe's history, the answer is about 10 100000000000000000000000. Given that the observable universe is only 10 80 atoms, it is extremely unlikely. So yes, snowflakes are truly unique. And it is to put it mildly.