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A Flame By Any Name

In Science, actor Alan Alda recounts having asked a teacher what a flame is, and the answer — "It's oxidation" — disappointing him. "It's just giving it another name," Alda tells The New York Times. "It's like saying, 'Well, a flame is Fred.' And that really doesn't get you anywhere." Aside from his acting career, Alda has also been involved with science communication, as host of PBS' Scientific American Frontiers, and as the founder of the Center for Communicating Science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He now proposes a challenge to scientists: "Would you be willing to have a go at writing your own explanation of what a flame is — one that an 11-year-old would find intelligible, maybe even fun?" he writes in Science. The winner will receive at VIP pass to the World Science Festival.