Most snowmans are deemed perfect by their creator. But what if there was a way to actually make a bonafide perfect snowman? Thanks to a mathematician in Europe, now there is.
Snowman construction is still all about rolling tiny balls of snow into larger spheres that are then stacked on top of each other. And of course there are those finishing touches of coal eyes, a carrot nose, hat and scarf.
But it’s now possible to assemble the perfect snowman thanks to the Omni Snowman Calculator created by Dr. Anna Szczepanek, professor of applied mathematics at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.
The beauty and perfection of a snowman, according to Szczpanek, is in its proportions. Regardless of whether it is made up of two, three, four or more snowballs, each of those spheres should be perfectly proportionally larger than the one above it and smaller than the one below it.
To determine that ratio Szczpanek used what is referred to as “the golden ratio” of 1:1.618. This ratio is found in patterns throughout nature. The golden ratio can be seen in the shapes of spiral galaxies, hurricanes, snail shells, the distribution of flower petals and even in the proportions of the human body.
The best way to achieve the golden ratio, Szczpanek said, is to employ the Fibonacci sequence of numerals. The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers starting at 0 with each number equalling the sum of the two numbers behind it. The longer your sequence, the closer to perfection you are.
Szczpanek created the calculator using Omni Calculator, a website that can be used to create special calculators for solving everyday problems. To create a calculator for building the perfect snowman, Szczpanek determined that one should use the measurements of existing snow depth, area and texture. You also put in the type of snow — dry or wet — ambient outdoor temperature and snow depth to get the height, mass and lifespan of your finished snowman.
When it comes to determining the amount of available snow, the calculator can factor it in metric units, standard units or the equivalent of a soccer field.
“I played around with the calculator and it was great,” said Dr. Lester French Jr., associate professor of applied mathematics and engineering at the University of Maine at Augusta. “I liked that the measurements are in all kinds of units and when I did the calculations mine came up with the weight of my snowman in stones — who weighs in stones?”
Using the conversion feature of the calculator, French determined he could build a 500 pound — or 35.7 stone — snowman using the available snow in his backyard.
“I have no idea what stones are,” Szczpanek said with a laugh. “I use kilograms but it’s fun to be able to change the [weight] units and see what you get.”
French said the calculator could also be a fun learning tool in teaching mathematics to all levels of students.
“Did the world need a snowman calculator? Maybe not,” French said. “But it’s always fun to apply math to things you otherwise would never think you would.”
And here’s what you don’t know: even if you aren’t trying to build the perfect snowman, you are using mathematical concepts like 3D geometry, thermodynamics, crystallography and meteorology.
The calculator could even be used by students learning from home to see how mathematics can be used in everyday life.
“I teach mathematics and I like to take the opportunity to make it fun,” Szczpanek said. “Of course, I teach applied mathematics and quantum mechanics, not how to build snowmen.