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The secret lives of snowflakes, from sky to earth; How and why we cry

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Not Unique

The secret lives of snowflakes

“The Chemistry of Snowflakes,” BytesizeScience.com

Snowflakes begin as nothing more than bits of dust floating in the clouds and emerge as frozen symbols of what it means to be unique. An animated video created by BytesizeScience.com, an arm of the American Chemical Society, breaks down a snowflake’s journey from sky to earth. The process begins when water vapor in a cloud sticks to a grain of dust, forming a droplet. As the droplet cools and freezes, an icy prism with six faces forms. Branches and cavities ensue as the flake rises and falls through warmer and colder air — freezing, then slightly melting, then refreezing again. The longer a snowflake is batted around in the atmosphere, the more time the branches have to to develop, giving the flake its distinctive shape. The video also divulges a secret: “The old saying that no two snowflakes are alike may be true for larger snowflakes, but not for smaller, simpler crystals that fall out of the sky at earlier stages, before they’ve had a chance to fully develop.”

A Good Cry

Hollywood tear-jerkers, explained through evolution

Why Humans Like to Cry,” by Michael Trimble

As much as we humans pursue happiness, we also love a good cry. We shed tears out of physical pain and psychological torment, for personal tragedies and out of empathy for others. But as most people have discovered, despite the sometimes negative triggers for tears, we often feel better after crying. So much so that ancient Greeks created an art form — the tragedy — that allowed them to tear up for entertainment; and today, many songs and movies score big because of that link between crying and pleasure. In “Why Humans Like to Cry,” neuropsychiatrist Michael Trimble attempts to tease out how and why this uniquely human trait evolved. According to the book, crying is a byproduct of self-consciousness. As early humans became aware of their own existence, they also became aware of the impending loss that comes with death. Trimble points to research that our brains evolved to trigger tear production as an early means of communication and social bonding. The activation of this neural circuitry, he writes, in turn activates the parts of the brain responsible for feeling pleasure. As a result, “the arts that evoke such emotions have flourished, an ancient echo from our ancestral past.”

— Maggie Fazeli Fard

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