snow formations

Snow clings to the jagged sides of Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. This astounding geologic feature is considered sacred to the Northern Plains Indians and other tribes, who called it “Bear’s Tipi” or “Bear’s Lodge.” Hundreds of parallel cracks make it one of the finest crack climbing areas in North America. Devils Tower entices us to explore and define our place in the natural and cultural world. Photo by National Park Service.

There’s something interesting around every turn at Badlands National Park in South Dakota. You’ll see colorful rock formations, a mind-blowing collection of fossils, wildlife like bighorn sheep, bison and prairie dogs, and sunrises that will inspire you. In sunlight or snow, the park’s 244,000 acres offer a tempting reason for you to get outside and explore. Photo by National Park Service.

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Ask Ethan: Could you have two perfectly identical snowflakes?

“I know scientists say that no two snowflakes are alike, but I say "how can you definitively know that unless you can see every single snowflake that falls.” Maybe a snowflake in Russia falls [at] the same time as a snowflake in Minnesota and they’re the same.“

When you see a snowflake, what you’re seeing is a thin crystal of ice, with intricate, hexagonally-symmetric features that reveal themselves under a microscope. Although snowflakes come in a myriad of different shapes and patterns, there’s one adage you’ve heard since you were a kid: that no two snowflakes are alike. From a scientific perspective, is that true? What gives snowflakes their intricate structures, and what does it truly mean for a snowflake to be unique? Do we require the exact same branching structure? Can we obtain that if we create them artificially? Do we require identical-ness down to a molecular or atomic level? And how much snow would we need for that to happen?

Come find out the real science behind two snowflakes being alike on this week’s Ask Ethan!

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Untitled by Lucas DeShazer