Meet the Scientist Who Worked as a Snowflake Consultant on Frozen

You might not recognize Ken Libbrecht on the street, but the odds are good you’ve seen his handiwork. Libbrecht is a physicist specializing in snowflakes, and his passion for ice crystals has made him something of a hot commodity.

Libbrecht’s interest in snowflakes came to him relatively late in life, well into his physics career. He was in North Dakota visiting family when a trip outside inspired a deceptively simple question, he told Smithsonian in 2013. “I suddenly thought, ‘Why don’t I understand more about these snowflakes?’” 

The reason, it turned out, was that science in general doesn’t understand a lot about how snowflakes form. So Libbrecht started examining, photographing, and cataloging the snowflakes he found. His stunning snowflake pictures have been collected into a number of popular coffee table books.

Still, he had questions, so Libbrecht built a snow machine. But rather than spewing feet of precipitation, the equipment grows a single snowflake at a time. "I call them 'designer snowflakes,'” he told Smithsonian, “because you can change the conditions as you grow them and predict what they'll look like.” The snowflake generators have indeed led to advances in crystallography and snow science, and Libbrecht’s work caught the attention of Disney animators, who brought him on board to ensure that their fairy tale flakes were true to life.

There’s one question that dogs Libbrecht wherever he goes: Is it true that no two snowflakes are alike? Here, he gets philosophical. “It depends on just what you mean by ‘alike,’” he wrote on his website, “and on just what you mean by ‘snowflake.’”

Listen to Libbrecht talk about his work and gaze at some gorgeous snowflakes in the video from Great Big Story above.

Header image from YouTube // Great Big Story

Afternoon Map
The Most Searched Shows on Netflix in 2017, By State

Orange is the New Black is the new black, at least as far as Netflix viewers are concerned. The women-in-prison dramedy may have premiered in 2013, but it’s still got viewers hooked. Just as they did in 2017, took a deep dive into Netflix analytics using Google Trends to find out which shows people in each state were searching Netflix for throughout the year. While there was a little bit of crossover between 2016 and 2017, new series like American Vandal and Mindhunter gave viewers a host of new content. But that didn’t stop Orange is the New Black from dominating the map; it was the most searched show in 15 states.

Coming in at a faraway second place was American Vandal, a new true crime satire that captured the attention of five states (Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin). Even more impressive is the fact that the series premiered in mid-September, meaning that it found a large and rabid audience in a very short amount of time.

Folks in Alaska, Colorado, and Oregon were all destined to be disappointed; Star Trek: Discovery was the most searched-for series in each of these states, but it’s not yet available on Netflix in America (you’ve got to get CBS All Access for that, folks). Fourteen states broke the mold a bit with shows that were unique to their state only; this included Big Mouth in Delaware, The Keepers in Maryland, The OA in Pennsylvania, GLOW in Rhode Island, and Black Mirror in Hawaii.

Check out the map above to see if your favorite Netflix binge-watch matches up with your neighbors'. For more detailed findings, visit

Afternoon Map
Monthly Internet Costs in Every Country

Thanks to the internet, people around the world can conduct global research, trade tips, and find faraway friends without ever leaving their couch. Not everyone pays the same price for these digital privileges, though, according to new data visualizations spotted by Thrillist.

To compare internet user prices in each country, cost information site created a series of maps. The data comes courtesy of English market research consultancy BDRC and, which teamed up to analyze 3351 broadband packages in 196 nations between August 18, 2017 and October 12, 2017.

In the U.S., for example, the average cost for internet service is $66 per month. That’s substantially more than what browsers pay in neighboring Mexico ($27) and Canada ($55). Still, we don’t have it bad compared to either Namibia or Burkina Faso, where users shell out a staggering $464 and $924, respectively, for monthly broadband access. In fact, internet in the U.S. is far cheaper than what residents in 113 countries pay, including those in Saudi Arabia ($84), Indonesia ($72), and Greenland ($84).

On average, internet costs in Asia and Russia tend to be among the lowest, while access is prohibitively expensive in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of Oceania. As for the world’s cheapest internet, you’ll find it in Ukraine and Iran.

Check out the maps below for more broadband insights, or view’s full findings here.

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

[h/t Thrillist]


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