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Alan Alda Challenges Scientists

"The Flame Challenge" seeks to instill love of science in children.

It’s a question that sounds simple, but is far from it: “What is a flame?”

Actor Alan Alda, a Bridgehampton resident and founding member of the Stony Brook University Center for Communicating Science, asked that very question when he was 11 years old and the answer “left him in the dark,” according to . Now, 65 years later, Alda is posing the question to scientists again, this time in a challenge to find the most clear, engaging and meaningful way for an 11-year-old to understand. Alda acts in hope that scientists will be better equipped to instill a love of science in children.

“The natural curiosity of a child can be both the beginning of the next generation of science, and a stimulating challenge for this generation’s scientists to communicate with clarity and imagination,” Alda is quoted as saying in a release from Stony Brook University.

Alda presents the challenge in a guest editorial in the March 2 issue of the Journal Science.

Entries for The Flame Challange, which will be judged by a panel of 11 year olds, will be accepted between March 2 and April 2 and the winners will be announced in June. “Entries can be in writing, video or graphics, playful or serious, as long as they are accurate and connect with the young judges,” the rules state.

Children are encouraged to submit more questions for scientists by emailing communicatingscience@stonybrook.edu. “We’ll select one for our next Flame Challenge,” said Elizabeth Bass, the director of the Center for Communicating Science, which is sponsoring the challenge.  “This is a fun way to help both scientists and kids learn new things about science.”

For more information and entry forms, or if your school would like to participate in the judging, visit www.FlameChallenge.org.

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