A physicist’s obsession with unusual snow crystals has led him to pursue a grand unified theory of how they form.
KENNETH LIBBRECHT IS that rare person who, in the middle of winter, gleefully leaves Southern California for a place like Fairbanks, Alaska, where wintertime temperatures rarely rise above freezing. There, he dons a parka and sits in a field with a camera and a piece of foam board, waiting for snow.
Specifically, he seeks the sparkliest, sharpest, most beautiful snow crystals nature can produce. Superior flakes tend to form in the chilliest places, he says, like Fairbanks and snowy upstate New York. The best snow he ever found was in Cochrane, in remote northeastern Ontario, where there is little wind to batter snowflakes as they fall through the sky.