This year’s competition has just turned a very interesting corner, as Alan Alda asks if you know what sound is. And if you could explain it to an 11 year old.
The famous Alda is currently the head of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York. For the past three years, the center has organized a competition asking scientists, no matter their rank or if they are professors, students or retired, to try to explain very complicated subjects in the easiest way possible, like for a child.
Many have showed interest in participating in the challenge and have been asked to explain things like sleep, color, flame and time. For that last one, maybe Stephen Hawking would have been an interesting contestant. Do you think he would have won?
Funnily enough, Alda started this competition in the first place because of something that happened to him when he was eleven. He can now recall asking one of his teachers precisely one of the questions in the competition today. The one about flame. Sadly, he never got a good explanation, as the teacher only told him something about oxidation. But one cannot seriously expect an 11 year old who’s asking about fire to understand what oxidation really is.
So now he has started this contest, in order to help both the kids, for them to understand better different scientific concepts and the scientists themselves, so that they can reconnect to the younger generations.
Each year the kids are invited to ask a question they would most like to have answered, they do, Alda picks the winning question and lets scientists try to answer in a 300 word essay, 5 minute video or with a graphic response.
And this year’s question is “What is sound?” The jury comprises only children, all 11 years old, from around the world. Two winners will be elected, one with a written answer and one with a video or graphic explanation. The prize consists of $1000 and a trip to New York to meet the man himself at the World Science festival next year.
The contest’s last day is January 19, 2016. You can also visit the foundation’s website for more information, if you are a scientist who wants to participate.
Alan Alda was born in 1936 and is best known for portraying Captain Hawkeye Pierce in the smash hit TV show M*A*S*H*, for which he won an Emmy Award and an Golden Globe. He has also been more recently nominated for an Academy Award, for playing US senator Owen Brewster in the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Aviator.
Image Source: www.reelgood.com