Take a look at the photo above. Yes, I know it’s just a picture of some melting snow, but take a closer look. Notice anything strange about it?

There’s only snow remaining on every other square tile. It’s melted into a snowy checkerboard, and no one has any idea why. There are no heaters or sewers or anything involved here, just good old-fashioned science, and some hypotheses are more science-y than others.

It all started when Twitter user @ichinoseshu posted this tweet:

▼ “I saw this photo and thought it was strange, so let’s try to figure it out with science! Give your best hypothesis for why the snow melted in this alternating pattern, and a way to test it too.”

Well readers, get your magnifying glasses and labcoats ready because… it’s time to get science-y.

▼ Step aside, citizen. Sexy snow scientists coming through.

scientistsFlickr (Craig Anderson)

To start us off, let’s take a look at some of the reasonable suggestions made on Twitter. Some people thought it was all about the tiles’ ability to hold onto heat:

▼ “Maybe the tiles with the colored center square are better at conducting heat somehow?”

▼ “Perhaps the parts with the snow still left on them are thicker than the other parts? The thinner ones would be better at carrying heat and melt the snow faster. The thicker ones would have their heat taken away by the air, staying colder and keeping the snow around. I have no idea how you’d test it though.”

Others thought it was due to the difference in patterns on the tiles. It’s a little hard to see, but the ground alternates between tiles made up of five smaller pieces, and (snow-covered) tiles that are just one big piece:

▼ “The tiles that are made up of five smaller pieces have more grooves in them, and since the snow seems to melt more nearby the grooves between the tiles, it would make sense for there to be less snow on the five-piece tiles. And the reason there’s less snow in the upper-right of the picture is because that’s where the sun has been shining the longest. The shadow at the bottom has probably been coming down slowly all day.”

▼ “The water from the melted snow drains away in the grooves between the tiles, melting more snow along with it. So the five-piece tiles with more grooves have more water in them, thus melting more snow. To test it you could get two identical stone slates, cut some long grooves into one of them, put the same amount of shaved-ice on both, and see if the grooved one melts faster.”

Personally I think that @aho151’s hypothesis makes the most sense, but here are some comments from the Hachima Kiko messageboard if their explanations don’t fully satisfy you:

“Uh, they just put salt on the places where it melted. Duh.”
“They were probably practicing sumo and purified the ring with some salt.”
“Someone must’ve been hopping around on one [square??] foot.”
“I find it stranger that the snow is still in such nice condition and not walked all over.”
“Pfft, it has nothing to do with science. I cleaned the snow off all those tiles myself.”
“Wait, what? You mean you don’t know the answer? I opened this hoping to find the answer why, not just some stupid hypotheses!”

So what do you think happened? Were a bunch of tiny people holding sumo matches on every other tile? Or does the real answer lie in all that “heat conduction” and “grooves” business? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Twitter, Hachima Kiko
Featured/top image: Twitter