Snowflakes and Symmetry

March 11, 2021

Snowflake on window 2 012721

Photographer: John Stetson 
Summary Author: John Stetson 

This newly fallen, dendritic snowflake was photographed when it landed on a pane of glass at my home on Sebago Lake, Maine. On extremely cold days, I often walk around outside looking for frost on windows, and each time it snows I also look for snowflakes like this one, which was captured on January 27, 2021.

A snow crystal’s six-sided symmetry always seems to get our attention. But why? Here is a quote from Alan Lightman, the author of Einstein's Dreams: "Why do we human beings delight in seeing perfectly round planets through the lens of a telescope and six-sided snowflakes in winter? ... I would claim that symmetry represents order and we crave order in this strange universe we find ourselves in. ... Symmetry is also economy. Symmetry is simplicity. Symmetry is elegance."