Alan Alda recently announced the winners of Stony Brook University’s Flame Challenge, a contest where scientists were asked to explain “What is color?” in a way that interests 11-year-olds. Melanie Golob and Dianna Cowern took home the top honor and received trophies and congratulations from Alda and hundreds of children around the world at the World Science Festival in New York City.
The Alan Alda Center of Communicating Science at Stony Brook University runs the Flame Challenge, which aims to encourage scientists to explain complex material in simple ways. “I hope it was fun and interesting to face the challenge of being clear, but accurate, about something complex,” Alda said of the contest. “I hope that girls as well as boys around the world will be inspired by these two young, thoughtful and passionate scientists”
Melanie Golob, a University of California graduate and biochemist, won for the top-ranked written answer, which, she shared, was inspired by a children’s book about dogs not seeing the same colors as humans. In her entry she wrote, “One big step in improving science communication is to teach scientists doing the research how to explain their work in a way that’s easy to understand.”
Fellow winner, Dianna Cowern, a MIT graduate and physicist, received the award for the top-ranked video answer. The MIT graduate is the outreach coordinator for the Physics Department at the University of California and manages her own educational channel on YouTube called the Physics Woman.
Both the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sponsored the challenge, in which 400 scientists entered and had their work judged by 11-year-olds from around the world.
“The Flame Challenge is a marvelous way to coax scientists into communicating more clearly about their work,” said AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner.
For more information on the Flame Challenge, visit www.centerforcommunicatingscience.org.