Monday, November 19, 2007

obligatory snow entry

image from dkimages
It snowed this morning, twenty minutes of glory in the form of feathery-cold touches on the cheek and upturned eyelashes. It was like someone put a giant snowglobe over campus just in time for the 10AM rush. Those of us who thought we had gotten the short end of the stick (or at least the schedule) with all our morning classes discovered this morning that nope, it was fate after all.

It's said that no two snowflakes are alike, and the science behind this is such a good metaphor that I'm surprised we don't hear more about it. The shape of a snowflake is determined by the surrounding temperatures during its formation, but the growing snowflake is constantly blown about, and the tiniest shifts in temperature can determine whether it's a spike that grows here or a rod. No two snowflakes have the same history, no two snowflakes take the same path from sky to ground, and thus no two snowflakes are identical (though one could theoretically create an exception if one tried really, really hard).

This first snow of the season inspired flurries of discussion in classrooms (anything to avoid work!), and it was fascinating to observe all the different backgrounds from which we come. Princeton values its diversity, and so we had the full range: all the way from people who had never seen snowfall before (including the tearful, "I missed it!", met with a general chorus of sympathy), to people hailing from Alaska (I know we have at least one!) or who knows where else: Antarctica, Sibera, Mount Everest...?

I come from somewhere in between. I spent a good portion of my school life in the snowy land of Syracuse, NY, the only city that would actually cherish the "Golden Snowball Award" (scroll down to the Winners section: this contest is rigged!). Getting two feet of snow overnight and still going to school the next morning was the norm for us, and our snowplows were so efficient that Syracusan children probably grew up thinking snow only fell on lawns and somehow always happened to miss all the streets and highways.

What are your backgrounds with snow? Tell us of your wintry pasts. I've always wanted to know - is it really possible to make a snow angel?

PS. Does anyone remember snowflake origami?


Hiphopapotamus said...

I bet tiny snowflakes of only a dozen molecules or so have been duplicated plenty of times.