Eli5. How does a snowflake maintain symmetry in all of six sections but share no symmetry with other snowflakes?


Edit : thanks for the great discussion. A fundamental flaw in my question is that since I was pretty high and watching something narrated by David Attenborough I mistakenly applied his facts to our collective knowledge “facts”.

Thanks to those that caught this and made me realize that “no two snowflakes are exactly alike” is completely unscientific. No two anythings are EXACTLY alike. That’s why there are two of them.

I say we push to amend that statement to “no two snowflakes, that we have examined, have, to the human eye, the same distinguishing features of shape that we would consider them identical in regards to only that particular trait.”

I feel like that is a bit too dry for buzzfeed. But we can always hope.

In: Other

by “careful” practice.

A symmetric snowflake costs less energy to maintain than an asymmetric one. Or in other words, starting from a warm drop, when the molecules wiggle and try a more symmetric shape, they release more energy into the surrounding. if the surrounding is colder than the water/flake they don’t get that energy back.
So bit by bit as the snowflake loses energy, it gets more and more symnetric.

I do believe that the “No snowflake shares symmetry with any other snowflake”-fact has been proven false, in some way or another.

Snowflakes aren’t perfectly symmetrical, their shape is generally symmetric. But if you look at the smaller features on the body, they are far from being symmetrical.

The snowflake is formed one molecule at a time. Once an initial microscopic shape has formed, it is easiest for new molecules to attach in a symmetric pattern that is based off of the initial random “seed” structure.

Also, each branch will have small differences caused by local changes in the environment as the snowflake forms.

Strange answers on top.

How snowflake grows depends from three factors: pressure, tempreature and humidity. As snowflake flies in the cloud in very chaotic way, all snowflakes are different.

On other hand all parts of the given snowflake has same history of these three factors. So all 6 ends of snowflake are symmtrical.