Conversations with Snow and Ice


The Art and Science through Ukichiro Nakaya

"Science is a collaboration between humans and nature."


1. Snow Crystals, Natural and Artificial: Ukichiro, the experimental physicist

"I recall that, in our artificial snow experiments, there were at times some failures. We were therefore delighted to find similar mishaps in natural snow. In preparing papers for presentation we select only the photographs of well-formed crystals we have made, but in fact there were, and still are, a considerable number of failures. There are times when a crystal that starts on the right track will suddenly make a wrong turn and assume a devious shape that defies any attempt at categorization. Such oddities that cannot be identi­fied as crystals are considered failures, and we must start all over again.
However, if one looks at natural snow with that perspective, one can find similar weird forms. After you discover one irregularity you notice others, one after another, at various stages of development showing that natural snow is also capable of failure to our great relief. Once I came upon a most marvelous example of failed development in natural snow and cried out, "Come look, they've made another mistake!" My assistant Mr. H. peered into the microscope and his face lit up with a blissful smile."

Ukichiro Nakaya, excerpt from Snow Postscripts (Translation by Keiko Murata)