The story of a snowflake

Ask Z-Guy

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Those of you who have followed InterestEng. from the beginning will remember our young Dr.Surprise—a boy from Ukraine who loved to surprise us with science stories about our solar system. Dr.Surprise is now grown and studying bio-engineering at the “Harvard of Ukraine” in Kiev. He recently wrote to say he missed writing for us.  One of his science professors told them that the way to understand the most com- plicated things was to find a way to describe them to a child. Thus was born our new column “Ask Z-Guy”.  Andrei is part of the “Z generation”: those who’ve come to the end of the alphabet and want something new.  Andrei is part of a generation who wants to give back and be involved.  We’re so glad!

Don’t miss the great video Andrei found this month to share with you.

I BELIEVE that everyone who has ever seen a snowflake has wondered about the way this magical thing appeared. 

     Snowflakes present pure beauty and elegance, consisting only of ice. Ice can be formed not only from liquid water, but also from water in a gas phase. Water in a gas phase is all around us, part of a forming stage of air.  Like water, the amount of gas in the air scientists called humidity. 

     You could say that clouds are a flying storage tank of water in a gas phase. They are like a flying lake (!) or even a sea and have the highest humidity possible. Ice crystals, which eventually turn into snowflakes, start forming in the clouds.  Every snowflake is unique and the shape of its arms can tell us the snowflake’s life story from the moment it started forming in the clouds to the moment it landed on your glove or nose.  

      Water molecules in clouds form a hexagonal crystal of ice which serves as a foundation for a snowflake. Each snowflake has a hexagon as its base. Such a perfect shape is formed because of basic molecular connections between the water molecules.  After hexagon is formed, other water molecules from clouds start to connect to it and water crystals begin to grow. Water molecules commonly start to connect at the corners of the hexagon. Because hexagons have only 6 corners, snowflakes have only 6 arms. While growing it starts gaining weight and, as it increases in size, it begins to fall. While falling it continues to connect water molecules from air to itself, but because of constantly changing conditions, the shape of its 6 arms begins to change in different ways. Every snowflake has its own path of falling and its own conditions. This is what causes the huge variety of snowflakes by the time they reach earth.  Snowflakes are one of numerous examples of nature’s incredible beauty.  And, despite them being cold, they can still warm your heart! — Z-Guy, Andrei

 ©preInterestEng. July 2013  §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff or used with permission.  §  To contact us: