Alan Alda Wants YOU … To Describe A Flame
Mar20

Alan Alda Wants YOU … To Describe A Flame

This post was written by Emily Bones, a member of the Editing & Production group here at C&EN. At the ripe young age of 11, actor and science advocate Alan Alda asked his science teacher, “What is a flame?” And she responded, “It’s oxidation.” To an 11-year-old, that doesn’t mean much. And at 76, Alda’s still searching for a suitable response. Along with the State University of New York, Stony Brook’s Center for Communicating Science, Alda has presented the world with a challenge, appropriately called the Flame Challenge. The task is simple: “Answer the question—‘What is a flame?’—in a way that an 11-year-old would find intelligible and maybe even fun,” flamechallenge.org states. In an editorial in Science this month, Alda reminds readers that “scientists urgently need to be able to speak with clarity to funders, policymakers, students, the general public, and even other scientists." In the article, he announces the challenge to promote science talk and avoid science jargon. Answers to the burning question are due to flamechallenge.org by April 2. Entries can be in the form of a recorded explanation, a written response, or an illustration. The winner will receive a VIP pass to the 5th annual World Science Festival in New York City, held May 30 to June 3, organized by the nonprofit Science Festival Foundation. To support the mission of the challenge, after a team of well-seasoned scientists has screened the entries for accuracy, a panel of 11-year-olds will choose the final winner. To learn how to be a panelist, contact communicatingscience@stonybrook.edu. And next week, at the ACS national meeting in San Diego, attendees can answer the question by visiting booth 638 in the exposition. There will be video cameras on hand to record answers, and these recordings can be submitted to the Flame Challenge. We hope Newscripts readers will enter. After all, who better to explain a flame than a...

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Alan Alda Takes On Marie Curie
Jun01

Alan Alda Takes On Marie Curie

Alan Alda, the actor and author, has added another credential to his CV: science playwright. Tonight his first play, "Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie," is being read as part of the opening night festivities of the World Science Festival at Alice Tully Hall in New York City. The play focuses on the eight years of Curie's life between winning her Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and her Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911. Actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, Liev Schreiber, David Morse, Bill Camp, Allison Janney, and Mireille Enos are among those lending their talents to this evening's reading. "I’ve worked hard to make the science in Radiance as accurate as possible, and I’m always grateful when a scientist can help me make it even clearer," says Alda in a Q&A over at DOE's Energy Blog. "But I try not to have a single line of science (or anything else) in the play that isn’t dramatic, moving the story forward by having a character actively trying to achieve his or her objective." If any Newscripts readers are planning to check out tonight's event, we'd love to hear what you think. The tickets, which start at $250, were out of the Newscripts gang's...

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