Fifth Flame Challenge Asks Scientists To Explain Sound

One of the guests on Science Friday this week is science communicator (and sometimes actor) Alan Alda.  He announced the topic for the Fifth Flame Challenge, a project he administers through the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.  (The American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science help sponsor the event.)

The Flame Challenge is where scientists explain a basic concept (in this case, sound) in a way that is appropriate for 11 year old kids.  Students are encouraged to register to serve as judges, and scientists can compete in either written or video form.  Written entries are limited to 300 words, and video entries must be no longer than five minutes (and submitted through Vimeo).  Winners in each category will receive $1,000 and a trip to the 2016 World Science Festival.

If you’re seeking inspiration for a possible entry, may I suggest two people who have possible expertise in this area.  Randall Munroe, the artist and writer of the xkcd comic,  released his second book this week – Thing Explainer.  It explains many scientific and technical things using the 1000 most common words.  David Rees, the host of Going Deep on The Esquire Network, has been looking at very fundamental tasks and analyzing them quite thoroughly.

Entries are due by 11:59 Eastern time on January 19.  Good luck!


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