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Young, Inquiring Minds

Science can be a complicated field for anyone to understand. It can be even more challenging for young children with less extensive scientific knowledge. Polished scientists are trying to help spread science knowledge by answering the questions of these young inquiring minds.

Famed actor Alan Alda, founding member of the Stony Brook University Center for Communicating Science is challenging scientists to answer an 11-year-old’s “not-so-simple” question, “What is a flame?”

The Center for Communicating Science is located in Stony Brook’s School of Journalism and is dedicated to giving workshops and presentations around the country to help current and future scientists learn to communicate clearly and vividly with the public. Their current challenge is to explain a flame in a clear, engaging, meaningful way so an 11-year-old can understand. Submissions will be judged by a panel of these young judges.

Alda hopes that scientists will be better equipped to communicate answers and spark a love of science in younger generations.

“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 said.

For more information and entry forms, or if your school would like to participate in the judging, please visit

“We’re also asking children to email us with other questions they would like scientists to answer,” said Elizabeth Bass, Director of the Center for Communicating Science.  “We’ll select one for our next Flame Challenge. This is a fun way to help both scientists and kids learn new things about science.” Questions can be emailed to

Binghamton University is also holding a similar interaction between scientists and young students with their column “Ask a Scientist,” which appears weekly on Thursdays. Their column can be seen here.


      Written by Megan Wolszczak



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      There is 1 comment

    • Rick says:

      "What is a flame?" Now that's deep. I presume they're not referring to 'flame' in the Internet vernacular, meaning to deliberately annoy someone with a comment in order to illicit a response?

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