The Six-Cornered Snowflake
The Six-Cornered Snowflake
150-page paperback / 5" x 7" / ISBN 978-1-58988-053-5 / Publication Date: January 2010
"In 1611, Kepler wrote an essay wondering why snowflakes always had perfect, sixfold symmetry. It's a simple enough question, but one that no one had ever asked before and one that couldn't actually be answered for another three centuries. Still, in trying to work out an answer, Kepler raised some fascinating questions about physics, math, and biology, and now you can watch in wonder as a great scientific genius unleashes the full force of his intellect on a seemingly trivial question, complete with new illustrations and essays to put it all in perspective."— io9, from their list "10 Amazing Science Books That Reveal The Wonders Of The Universe"
When snow began to fall while he was walking across the Charles Bridge in Prague late in 1610, the eminent astronomer Johannes Kepler asked himself the following question: Why do snowflakes, when they first fall, and before they are entangled into larger clumps, always come down with six corners and with six radii tufted like feathers?
In his effort to answer this charming and never-before-asked question about snowflakes, Kepler delves into the nature of beehives, peapods, pomegranates, five-petaled flowers, the spiral shape of the snail's shell, and the formative power of nature itself. While he did not answer his original question—it remained a mystery for another three hundred years—he did find an occasion for deep and playful thought.
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A most suitable book for any and all during the winter and holiday seasons is a reissue of a holiday present by the great mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler....The modern paperback includes not only Kepler's small masterpiece in English and Latin but also substantial descriptive and introductory pieces by Owen Gingerich of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Harvard, and by Guillermo Bleichmar of St. John's College in Santa Fe. Jacques Bromberg of the Tuxedo Park School provided the felicitous English translation, and snowflake drawings and a snowflake poem from 1990 are also included, the latter typographically displayed in snowflake form on the pages. Even the endnotes in this wonderful little book are interesting and educationally fun to read.—Jay Pasachoff in The Key Reporter
- New English translation by Jacques Bromberg
- Latin text on facing pages
- An essay, "The Delights of a Roving Mind" by Owen Gingerich
- An essay, "On The Six-Cornered Snowflake" by Guillermo Bleichmar
- Snowflake illustrations by Capi Corrales Rodrigáñez
- John Frederick Nims' poem "The Six-Cornered Snowflake"
- Notes by Jacques Bromberg and Guillermo Bleichmar
Johannes Kepler (1571-1631) was an important figure in the seventeenth century astronomical revolution. He is best known for his eponymous laws of planetary motion. Kepler wrote: "If there is anything that can bind the heavenly mind of man to this dusty exile of our earthly home…then it is verily the enjoyment of the mathematical sciences and astronomy."