(It was the Winterbash icon that got me thinking on this.)
Snow flakes take on a variety of intricate shapes, but what processes are responsible for this?
(Got the image off of Wikipedia)
I mean, I wouldn't have raised this question if those water droplets, descending towards earth, assumed a... less fancy shape. Not only are these minuscule structures very intricate, they also display a high degree of symmetry (with most having multiple planes of symmetry).
Now, as I understand it, all processes proceed so as to maximize the "randomness" of its constituent particles. (Oversimplified version of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, yes, I know... just don't chew me out in the comments section...)
This Law can easily be observed in, and verified by, natural processes.
Now the formation of snow is a natural process, agreed? The way my brain sees it, is that water droplets ought to freeze into random, and by virtue of its "randomness", highly unsymmetrical shapes. But this is not the case here!
For some confounded reason, the shapes assumed by snowflakes are eerily symmetrical. So eerie, that I'm surprised it hasn't attracted the attention of conspiracy theorists yet, as in the case of crop circles. Now I'm not saying you don't find symmetry in nature, there're plenty of examples out there. But what I am trying to point out here, is that you don't typically see symmetry to such a high extent as in the case of snowflakes.
There are innumerable natural processes that give rise to weird shaped stuff, but I'm not really sure what makes snowflakes so different. However, I did notice a few points of difference between the formation of snowflakes and other natural processes:
1) As water droplets/snow descends, it's subjected to significant temperature changes as it passes through different layers of the atmosphere.
2) As water droplets/snow descends, it's subject to a significant increase in pressure as it passes through different layers of the atmosphere.
So, I reiterate my question.
Why are snowflakes shaped as they are?
I heard (not sure where) that each snowflake assumes a unique shape. How true is this?