Modeling Snow Crystal Growth, 2016,  Janko Gravner and David Griffeath,  Transparencies from digital files, Courtesy of Janko Gravner and David Griffeath 

To investigate the formation of snow crystals, and perhaps to advocate for the human ability to replicate natural, ordered beauty with deliberate, algorithmic design, contemporary mathematicians Janko Gravner and David Griffeath have produced computationally generated starlets, which they refer to as Snowfakes. Granver and Griffeath use the methods of a cellular automaton, similar to those portrayed in John Conway’s Game of Life, to account for physical variables such as temperature, pressure, and water vapor density in modeling the diffusive, freezing, attachment, and melting actions of individual water molecules in a matrix of three-dimensional space. Their model ultimately produces images of icy crystalline starlets as intricate and, arguably, as beautiful as their natural counterparts, like those captured by Wilson Bentley. Gravner and Griffeath’s Snowfakes also conform to the more than eighty types of snowflake crystals generated by nature and provide insight into the form and design of ice and other crystalline solids.

Rachel Roe-Dale

Janko Gravner (b. 1960) is a professor in the Department of Mathematics at University of California, Davis and David Griffeath (b. 1948) is a retired professor of Mathematics at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Through their investigation into the formation of snow crystals, Gravner and Griffeath’s collaboration has successfully produced computationally generated starlets, which they refer to as Snowfakes, that conform to the more than eighty types of snowflake crystals generated by nature. Their research has provided insight into the form and design of ice and other crystalline solids. Granver and Griffeath use the methods of a cellular automaton to account for physical variables such as temperature, pressure, and water vapor density in modeling the diffusive, freezing, attachment, and melting actions of individual water molecules in a matrix of three-dimensional space.
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