Thursday, December 24, 2009

You Just Can't Get Good Help Anymore.

Today's earth-shattering news headline:

Snowflakes on Christmas Cards Drawn Wrong.

In pop culture depictions, snowflakes are usually drawn inaccurately, an expert now says. Snowflakes are six-cornered, rather than the four-, five- and eight-cornered crystals typically depicted in children's books, Christmas cards and even in an ad for a science magazine.

Thomas Koop of Bielefeld University in Germany noticed the frosty mistake on a subscription advertisement for the scientific journal Nature that contained octagonal snow crystals in the background.

"Ironically it was entitled '...for anyone who loves science,'" Koop said. Bringing the irony full circle, Koop's commentary on the subject is published in the Dec. 24 issue of Nature.

Snowflakes are made of water molecules that link up via hydrogen bonds. The best and most efficient way to arrange themselves is a hexagonal crystal lattice, Koop explained. So rather than eight sides, snowflakes are bound by physical laws to take on a six-sided shape.

And if that weren't enough, raindrops are also inaccurately depicted.

"The shape of falling rain drops is depicted incorrectly in almost any (children's) book that I know of," Koop said. "Most often, they are drawn in a teardrop-like shape, a kind of pinnacle at the top and round at the bottom."

He added, "However, in reality cloud droplets are spherical because of water's surface tension and falling rain drops are somewhat flattened at the bottom (depending on their fall speed), because of the resistance they feel as they fall through the air (similar to the drag that you feel in your face when you bike)."

Is there nothing sacred anymore?


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