Tags: alan alda | flame challenge | stony brook

Alan Alda, Actor and Science Activist, Names Flame Challenge Winners

Image: Alan Alda, Actor and Science Activist, Names Flame Challenge Winners

By    |   Wednesday, 04 Jun 2014 10:55 AM

Alan Alda, former "M.A.S.H." actor and star of "The West Wing," was on hand in New York City Sunday to present the top prizes in his annual Flame Challenge, which this year invited scientists to find ways to teach 11-year-olds about the meaning of colors.

Melanie Golob, a biochemist from Olympia, Washington, and Dianna Cowern, the outreach coordinator for the University of California, San Diego's physics department, received the top prizes in the competition, according to a press release from Stony Brook University, where Alda is the founding member of the Center for Communicating Science.

The Flame Challenge encourages scientists to break down complex material in ways non-scientists can understand. Alda started the competition in 2011 with the question, "What is flame?" The actor-turned-science activist reportedly asked his teacher the same question as an 11-year-old boy and was dissatisfied with the answer, "oxidation."

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"We believe that scientists have a responsibility to share the meaning and implications of their work, and that an engaged public encourages sound public decision-making," Alda's Center for Communicating Science says on its website. "In addition, the ability to communicate directly and vividly can enhance scientists' career prospects, helping them secure funding, collaborate across disciplines, compete for positions and serve as effective teachers."

Golob won the written answer portion of the competition, according to Stony Brook University, while Cowern won the video portion.

"Without avenues like the Flame Challenge to validate creative and accurate science communication, many, like me, may feel our science communication efforts are in vein; and we may lose the benefit of thousands of fantastic minds for whom science and expression are not separate," Cowern said, according to the university.

Alda was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005 for his role in the Howard Hughes biopic "The Aviator." He is a five-time Golden Globe winner for his portrayal of "Hawkeye" Pierce in "M.A.S.H." He also won two Emmys for that role and another for "The West Wing." He was seen this past television season in James Spader's "The Blacklist."

Here's Cowern's winning video, which sought to answer the question of "What is color?" for 11-year-olds:




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Alan Alda, former "M.A.S.H." actor and star of "The West Wing," was on hand in New York City Sunday to present the top prizes in his annual Flame Challenge, which this year invited scientists to find ways to teach 11-year-olds about the meaning of colors.
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Wednesday, 04 Jun 2014 10:55 AM
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