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Crystal Cams

Somewhere in the world, it's snowing...
  [vote for,

The Problem
When I was a child I used to love looking at fresh snowflakes. (usually the ones that landed on my sleeves). Even though the individual snow crystals are very small, I could still pick them out with my naked eye, because the flat surface of each crystal shines in the sun like a perfect mirror. Whenever I spied a mirror-like crystal to explore, I held my breath and held the crystal close, to examine its lacy structure.
Now I am old, and I never play outside, and I live in a warm climate. I would love to be able to explore fresh snow crystals again, in real time, without having to leave my computer.

The solution - Crystal Cams
A website with a selection of snowcams. Video cameras, pointed toward snowy ledges all over the world, with close-up views of fresh snow, with a bit of remote control so I can move pan and zoom the camera a bit. The user would be able to choose one snowcam after another and explore the different kinds of snow crystals that each camera shows.

Locations are chosen according to average annual snowfall. I've read that the biggest crystals are formed at -15 celsius, so an area that has most days at that temperature would be good. Ski resorts might be willing to house the cams, as promotion. A problem with snowflake viewing is that snowflakes melt away if the temperate is not below freezing, and sublimate if the air is dry. So we seek locations that are below freezing, with high relative humidity.

The webcams should be capable of high resolution (at least 1024x768) so that I can have a full screen of snow to explore. With this high resolution, I would expect a low refresh rate, but that's ok since snow crystals don't move too fast. The cameras are fitted with macro lenses, so your pinkynail could fill the frame when they are all zoomed in. Polarizing filters might be worthwhile. The purpose of the remote control pan is so the user can shift the camera back and forth a few inches, so she can explore the snow accumulation and find good crystals. Then she can zoom in on the one she wants. The camera should be shielded from snow blocking the lens.

Snow platforms
Snow platforms should be hexagonal shape, in keeping with the snowflake theme. For night viewing, they should be made of glass, with a cool light underneath. In warmer snow areas, the ledges can be fitted with cooling coils. I'm not sure if the ledges should be in direct sunlight or not. Sunlight melts the flakes, but also makes them sparkle. I used to view snowflakes in sunlight, so I think that is ok.

Variety of locations
The purpose of having several cameras in several locations is that on any given day, the odds will be high that at least one cam enjoys the special weather conditions favorable to big beautiful crystals. On a given day, most of the cams won't show any snow crystals at all, but by increasing the number of cams, we increase the odds. Both hemispheres and most time zones should be represented. The temperature and humidity of each location is displayed beneath the thumbnail image on the main page.

If bandwidth is a problem, then this idea could be reconceived as a CCTV apparatus for someone to explore backyard snow crystals, during a snow storm, from the comfort of the fireside.

robinism, Jan 12 2005

Photographing Snowflakes http://www.its.calt...s/photo2/photo2.htm
[half, Jan 12 2005]


       Apologies if I'm misunderstanding, but you're saying that the biggest snow crystals are formed at fifteen degrees above freezing? [edit: now corrected to -15]
david_scothern, Jan 12 2005

       Right you are. I meant -15. Will I never get the metric system? (Rhetorical; no need to answer)
robinism, Jan 12 2005

       To increase your chances of viewing a flake:
Could you could have the camera looking up through a sheet of glass during light snowfall (with a periodic or remotely, on-demand activated clearing of the glass)?
That, or if you hang around the Redmond area long enough...
half, Jan 12 2005

       [half], I really like your ideas. They will be adopted for all the Mark II models. You can be partners in robinism incorporated anytime.   

       It makes me wonder why I didn't think of it. Too attached to the "snowflakes on my sleeve" scenario, I guess.   

       Additional advantages of your suggestion -   

       The camera lens is protected from snow by the platform.   

       The distance from the camera to the platform can stay constant, since the camera doesn't have to dodge heaps of snow.   

       The 'windshield wipers' are cute.   

       The flake we are viewing will always be flat on the glass, not at some odd angle.   

       We can have the windshield wipers apply light oil or silicone to the glass, to kind of encase the flakes and keep them from sublimating so fast.   

       When it's not snowing, the camera can have a nice view of the sky.   

       The whole aparatus can be tilted to work with prevailing winds.
robinism, Jan 12 2005

       I wonder how large a snowflake one could produce from a single seed flake in the cold, super saturated, upwind of a small wind tunnel?
FarmerJohn, Jan 12 2005

       Snowflake creation is an problem ripe for halfbaking. Visit that site that [half] linked to, and then go for it. I'm looking forward to what you come up with.
robinism, Jan 12 2005

       Gawsh, thanks. Do I get the corner office?
half, Jan 12 2005

       You can have the whole top floor. (except during snowstorms)   

       The solution never really "clicked" when I was writing it up. What you wrote clicked.
robinism, Jan 13 2005

       Of course, you can have the top when it's snowing, but surely you aren't saying that there's a glass ceiling in your own business.
half, Jan 13 2005


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