South O’ the Highway

Alan Alda Issues Flame Challenge: What Is Sound?

Water Mill’s Alan Alda has a new challenge for scientists: Explain sound in a way that will win over 11-year-old judges.

Alda has been issuing The Flame Challenge annually since 2012 through the The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. The inspiration was his own experience as a curious 11-year-old. He asked his teacher, “What is a flame?” and the teacher just gave him a one-word answer, “oxidation.” he found the answer neither satisfactory or enlightening.

Since the inaugural Flame Challenge, Alda has asked 11-year-olds to send in more questions they would like scientists to explain. Past challenges include, “What is time?” “What is color?” and “What is sleep?”

Fifth- and sixth-grade teachers who are interested in having their students serve as judges should click here.

Scientists who want to answer the question, “What is sound?” may enter by clicking here. The contest includes two categories, written and visual. There is a $1,000 prize for each category. Written entries must be fewer than 300 words, and videos must be shorter than 5 minutes. Answers must be submitted by 11:59 pm (EST) January 19, 2016.

The winning scientists are brought to New York to be honored in June at the World Science Festival.

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