Saturday, December 15, 2007

Snow kidding

You wouldn't have wanted to be on the road when this snow came down late Thursday. But for those of us who walk, it was one of those Christmas-card-perfect snowstorms, light, fluffy, pristine. In trying to explain why snowflakes have six-points, the 16th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler was reduced to saying that, like Olympic athletes, snow contrives to "fall gracefully." Not much of an explanation by our standards, but it worked fine for me as I shuffled home through a gorgeous hexagonal swirl. Four centuries later scientists are still struggling to explain how snowflakes grow with such perfect symmetry. The tip of one point is a galaxy away from the tip of another, molecule-wise. That is to say, how does a water molecule attaching itself to a flake at the tip of one point, know what's happening 10 million molecules away -- by my rough calculation -- on the other side of the flake?

The walk to college the next morning was in a world made new. The pic is from my coffee corner in the Commons, decorated for the holidays. And now, with this one perfect snowstorm, it's time to translate to another of my parallel universes. I'll leave a few things for Tom to post, but when next you hear from me directly it will be from our tropic isle. I don't know what I will find there by way of an internet connection, but that's why we chose the place -- for a life that's pared (almost) to bare essentials.