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December2007
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A Snowflake Is a Snowflake Is a Snowflake

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.” – Henry David Thoreau

Winter scenes. Snowflakes, three rows of four. ca. 1920 – 1950 Billy Collins, in his second term as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress, speaks in the Children & Young Adults Pavilion at the 2002 National Book Festival

With their complex structures of plates, dendrites, columns, needles, prisms and crystals, snowflakes truly are a beauty to behold when you’re not trying to catch them with your tongue. They say that no two snowflakes are exactly alike. This is because not all water molecules are alike, and since snowflakes are made from water vapor, it follows that each will be slightly different. Snowflakes are also affected by atmospheric conditions and can change in shape and design as they fall from a cloud and are exposed to varying temperatures.

This mystery is just one of many explained as part of the Science, Technology and Business Division presentation of “Everyday Mysteries.” These mysteries deal with everyday phenomena that often are taken for granted but can be explained scientifically.

Snowflakes are also synonymous with wintery storms that keep you bundled up and inside, and white-blanketed lawns that make you anticipate the driveway shoveling you’ll have to do later. Poet Mark Svengold appropriately sums the season up in his poem “Relearning Winter.” Presented as part of the Poetry 180 Project, developed by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins, this poem is one of 180 intended for high school students to read—one for each day of the school year. Of course, anyone can read and enjoy these poems. Make sure to keep yourself updated on each day’s poem by signing up for the Poetry 180 RSS Feed or email alert. There you can also sign up for updates from the Science, Technology and Business Division.


A. Winter scenes. Snowflakes, three rows of four. ca. 1920 – 1950. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-H814-T01-W07-038 (b&w film dup. neg.); Call No.: LC-H814- W07-038 <P&P>[P&P]

B. Billy Collins, in his second term as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress, speaks in the Children & Young Adults Pavilion at the 2002 National Book Festival. Photo by Michaela McNichol. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction.