2011/01/16

Flakes!

About 5cm or so of flakes...

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This morning we awoke to find our world covered in soft, cold, white stuff.

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The first person to create artificial snowflakes, and figure out why snowflakes grow into the unique shapes that they do, was a Japanese physicist by the name of Ukichiro Nakaya back in the 1930s. You see, Nakaya had a degree in physics, but the only job he could land was at the University of Hokkaido in Japan's far north which did not have any facilities for nuclear research experiments. Hokkaido does have an abundance of snowflakes however! Nakaya studied the crystalline structures using a microscope and camera and worked out how and why they form as they do. For more, check out this beautiful book on the topic: "The Snowflake, Winter's Secret Beauty" by Kenneth Libbrecht with photos by Patricia Rasmussen.

A snowflake photograph by Nakaya

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Momo is not keen on snow. She came out for a look, but wouldn't touch it. After staring at it for a while from her cushion on the patio bench, she asked to go back inside the house to her cage with its heated bed. Later, however, the call of nature was too strong, so she had me take her for her morning walk even in the ice and snow.

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Knowing this wouldn't last, I decided to take some pictures. I visited our local Shinto shrine - Tsubaki Shrine (camellia). The tori at the entrance still has its New Year decorations of bamboo and pine branches.

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Even though sheltered by massive oaks and Japanese cedars, the buildings were coated with snow.

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A garden of winter vegetables with a row of ume trees behind it.

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A field of daikon - large radishes. Daikon is used extensively in Japanese cooking. Speaking of which, Kimie is cooking "oden" tonight - a kelp based soup with sliced daikon, lotus root, various fish cakes, konnyaku (a gelatinous food made from konjac roots), eggs, and other goodies. There are variations across Japan and of course depending on what you have on hand. Just the thing on a cold winter's night!

Some flakes trivia: 1) "Films made prior to [It's A Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart] used cornflakes painted white for the falling snow effect. Because the cornflakes were so loud [when tread upon], dialogue had to be dubbed in later. Frank Capra wanted to record the sound live, so a new snow effect was developed using foamite (a fire-fighting chemical) and soap and water. This mixture was then pumped at high pressure through a wind machine to create the silent, falling snow. 6000 gallons of the new snow were used in the film. The RKO Effects Department received a Class III Scientific or Technical Award from the Motion Picture Academy for the development of the new film snow." (IMDb.com)