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The Snowflake [Hardcover]

Kenneth Libbrecht
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 17, 2003 0896586308 978-0896586307 1
Snowflakes may be an everyday, common subject, but youve never seen them like this! A collection of amazing photography of snow crystals using a unique system designed to take super-detailed micro images of these miniature ice masterpieces, "The Snowflake" is an extraordinary look at a seemingly ordinary object. Author Kenneth Libbrecht, a physics professor at Caltech and the pre-eminent snow-crystal researcher, discusses the physics and mythology of snow and how snow crystals are made. Photographer Patricia Rasmussen presents remarkable color micro-photography of snowflakes, and also discusses the history of snow-crystal micro-photography as invented by farmer Wilson Bentley.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Physicist Libbrecht and photographer Rasmussen both grew up in snowy climes, but it took a scientific and aesthetic focus to deepen their appreciation for snow's hidden beauty, revelations they now share in a felicitous union of word and image. Libbrecht decodes the exquisite architecture of individual snowflakes by explaining how these "miniature ice masterpieces" are literally conjured out of thin air as water vapor condenses into ice in shapes dictated by the geometry of water molecules. Temperature, humidity, and motion all contribute to the forming of snow crystals, which shape-shift rapidly from simple faceted structures to complex branching forms, growing and falling at the rate of a million billion crystals a second. The physics of snow crystals is fascinating, and so, too, is Libbrecht's history of the science of snowflakes, which features Rene Descartes; Johannes Kepler; Vermont farmer Wilson Bentley, who pioneered a method for photographing individual snowflakes; and physicist Ukichiro Nakaya, who figured out how to grow them. And then there are Rasmussen's exquisite photographs of these gems. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Los Angeles Times, Feb. 16, 2006 (circ.: Orange County edition: 187,300; LA edition: 908,000; Valley edition: 200,600)
"With a series of books, photographs and a Web site ( that gets 2 million hits a year, Libbrecht is expanding his snowflake empire this year when the U.S. Postal Service issues a commemorative four-stamp set with his snow crystal photos. Later, a new Libbrecht book will hit the stands: a pocket-sized field guide to snowflake types that will make it easy for every man to identify and classify nature's frozen art."

Home Education Magazine Dec. 1, 2007

“For the truly snow-obsessed, The Snowflake is an excellent overview of the history, science, and art of snowflakes, illustrated with exquisite photographs.”

The Polar Times (official publication of the American Polar Society), January 2006 (circ. unavailable)
"Anyone who appreciates the handsome, intricate symmetry of snow crystals must buy Kenneth Libbrecht's book."

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Voyageur Press; 1 edition (November 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0896586308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0896586307
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 8.7 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #565,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Photos and Inspired Science January 5, 2004
It is hard to think of a natural phenomenon that has more intrinsic delight and fascination than a snowflake. Sure, the things pile up and please skiers and dismay drivers, but taken one by one, each snowflake is not only pretty, it has enough complexity and mystery about it to delight any careful observer. In _The Snowflake: Winter's Secret Beauty_ (Voyageur Press), two careful observers have documented what intrigues them about snowflakes. Kenneth Libbrecht is head of the physics department of Caltech, and he not only rushes out with a magnifying glass when it snows, he grows snowflakes artificially in his lab. Patricia Rasmussen is a photographer who started taking pictures of snowflakes with her own equipment and then used Libbrecht's special apparatus. This is a book a little larger than a hundred pages, but the pictures are elegant, and the text tells the current explanations, as far as we now know them (there are still mysteries), of why snowflakes look the way they do.
The famous snowflake pictures of William Bentley inspired Rasmussen to start taking pictures of snow. Bentley's pictures are carefully reproduced white-on-black images, but Rasmussen has experimented with colored light to give multicolored pastels that shine on and through the hundreds of crystals depicted here. There are plenty of the six-armed variety, but also triangular snowflakes, and twelve, eighteen, or twenty-four armed ones, as well as tiny ice crystals shaped like needles, prisms, barrels, or bullets. can form at the right conditions. Different humidity and temperature produces the shapes. For the familiar snowflake, each arm experiences the same microclimate, so each changes in the same way.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Photographs. Readable, Informative Text. December 11, 2003
The first thing that anyone will notice upon opening "The Snowflake" is Patricia Rasmussen's incredible photographs. I am something of a snowflake enthusiast, and I have never seen such stunning photographs of snow before. There are over 100 exquisitely detailed photographs of snow crystals and snowflakes that will take your breath away. Fans of "The Snowflake Man", W. A. Bentley, will love this book. But it isn't just pretty pictures. The photographs illustrate a text by physicist Kenneth Libbrecht. Dr. Libbrecht is a snow crystal researcher, and his fluid prose successfully communicates the depth of knowledge and enthusiasm he has for his subject. "The Snowflake" has eight chapters, all of which are generously illustrated with photographs and most of which are short. The first seven chapters explain how and why snow crystals form the way they do, as well as the history of our understanding of snow. Libbrecht's text is detailed and technical, but it is very readable and easily understood by a lay person. And he moves onto the next topic before you have a chance to become bored by the particulars of the last. Chapter 8, which is by far the longest chapter at 32 pages, is a "Field Guide to Falling Snow". All types of snow crystal, both common and rare, are described and pictured so that the reader will be able to identify just about anything he/she might encounter falling from the winter sky. "The Snowflake" is a thoroughly enjoyable and genuinely inspiring book. Patricia Rasmussen's photographs are a testament to the extraordinary beauty that can be found is such a small natural wonder as a snowflake. Read more ›
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book December 6, 2003
By A Customer
What a wonderful book! I had what I would call
a passing interest in snowflakes -- until
I got this book. Since childhood I had heard that no
two snowflakes were alike. That was interesting.
Well wait until you read this book. Snowflakes
are not just interesting, they're fascinating!
The photographs are amazing.
Just stare at the photograph on page 37 for awhile
and you will be convinced. Look at the extraordinary
detail, the amazing complexity, and yet the perfect
symmetry. Each of the 6 "arms" are the same and yet
so complicated. And then look at a completely
different snowflake on page 50, for example.
Again the complexity with the symmetry is striking.
All arms very much the same but very different from
the 6 arms on the page 37 flake. How do they do that?
You'll have to read the book to find out. And the flakes
are not all about the arms. Stare at the central portion
of the snowflake on page 42 for example. Look
at the exquisite detail in there. To me it looks like 6 insects
feeding at a trough. Just amazing.
One of the most astounding facts to find out is that
you are probably part of each and every snowflake
pictured in the book! I'm talking about part of you
physically -- in every snowflake that falls to
the ground. That stood the hairs up on the back of my
neck. Although this is a great coffee table book,
it's also a book you're going to want to sit down and read.
It makes a great gift to take when you visit someone. It
makes a great gift in general and a particularly good
one during the winter hoilday season. The quality is superb;
it's hard to believe they can sell it for such a low price.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars More informative
Enjoyed reading this book. It was relaxing to look at natures beauty.I love the snowfalls and much more aware of individual snowflakes.
Published 2 months ago by Nila Nagy
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book to Read Every Year
This book has the most amazing photography of snowflakes you will ever see. It goes into discussing the different formations and would be a fantastic resource for a child to... Read more
Published 5 months ago by KMR
1.0 out of 5 stars The Snowflake
The book came wityh finger prints on the cover, and the inside was inscribed to someone
I didn't know and dated 2003. very disappointed. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Lee Jensen
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Photographs
Kenneth Libbrecht will teach you more about snowflakes than you ever guessed there was to know about them. Read more
Published 9 months ago by A. Karlsson
4.0 out of 5 stars Children Books Should be fun Reads
Capture the attention of a child with a good book and you are not only entertaining them but educating them. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Kathy Hughes
5.0 out of 5 stars Snowflake
Buy this book! The incredible photos show the most lovely design of snowflakes under a microscope. The text is so informative, yet easy to read. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jane E. Lebrun
5.0 out of 5 stars snowflake
Unbelievably beautiful! My students were so inspired by this book that two of them made clay molds patterned after two snowflakes to pour molten glass into
Published 16 months ago by Catherine Touch
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
This book has lots of information on snowflakes and taking pictures of them and is very nice and interesting! Very nice for the artistic and scientifically curious... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Brad Beams
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderful, and don't miss the related videos
This book is wonderful visually, in its scientific content, and in its way of explaining things. I learned a great deal from it, especially regarding the origin of those stinging... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Pdecordoba
5.0 out of 5 stars Must HAVE
This Book is perfect for the Coffee table during the Winter months. Just the idea that we'll never see a duplicate Snowflake is mind-blowing.
Published on September 13, 2011 by DC
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