The Weird and Wonderful World of Icicle Science

By Chris Mills on at

Despite icicles killing chilling numbers of people per year, we know surprisingly little about the hows and whys of their formation (and no, the answer is not just 'the cold'). The Icicle Atlas, a giant online repository of everything you could ever want to know about icicles, seeks to change that.

As the New York Times explains, the Icicle Atlas is the work of Dr Stephen Morris, a professor at the University of Toronto. He set out to understand why icicles form like they do — and, therefore, ended up growing hundreds of icicles in controlled lab conditions.

The end result is an atlas with about 237,000 pictures, with icicles photographed from every imaginable angle and at every possible stage of development. Although Morris hasn't unlocked all the icicle's secrets just yet, he's at least worked out that the characteristic ripples that form are the result of impurities in the water — but the ripples don't vary depending on the type or amount of impurities. Weird and wonderful indeed. [New York Times]

Image credit: Stephen Morris/Flickr