If you haven't watched Disney's animated blockbuster "Frozen" in quite some time (parents of young children excluded), take a look when you have a moment and eyeball the snowflakes carefully. Kenneth Libbrecht, a Caltech physics professor who served as a consultant on the film, is very proud of how these little animated details turned out.
"They wanted to get all the snowflakes right," he shared in a video interview with Great Big Story, "and so they asked me how they grow. And I was very pleased when the movie came out, they all looked like real snowflakes, none of them were 8-sided, they were all 6-sided."
Libbrecht earned the title of official snowflake consultant for the film due to his extensive and pioneering research into how snowflakes are created.
"People think that a snowflake is just a frozen raindrop," he told the Smithsonian in 2013. "But that's sleet, just little ice cubes, and not even close to what a snowflake is."
You can watch the birth of a snowflake in the video below:
Libbrecht is currently the only scientist generating artificial snowflakes in a lab, studying their formation in microscopic detail. His technique, detailed extensively in this Smithsonian article, takes about 45 minutes to create a model snowflake. Over 20 years of research on the topic has led to advances in both crystallography and snow science. Nonetheless, Libbrecht says there's still a lot to learn about these beautiful natural works of frozen art.
"We still don't exactly understand why they look like they do," he says in the video. "So it's kind of fun to think about."