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It Has Something to Do With Boring Lectures, Right?

Actor and science aficionado Alan Alda has announced the topic of his latest science communication challenge: Explain what sleep is so an 11-year old can get it.

Alda, who is a visiting professor of journalism at Stony Brook University, kicked off his series of challenges in 2011 by asking scientists to explain what a flame is in a way that kids could understand. He'd asked a science teacher that question when he was in school and found the answer — 'it's oxidation' — lacking.

"I didn't know what oxidation was. Oxidation was just another word for me," Alda tells LiveScience.

Any scientist can enter the challenge by submitting a written explanation, video, or graphic describing what sleep is. Two winners will be selected by a panel of children, and, for the first time, those winners will win a prize of $1,000, the New York Times notes.

"Sleep is something mysterious to all of us at every age," Alda tells the Times. "I think the idea that you get drowsy and drop off at a certain point is a weird experience, and it happens to everybody. So what is it? Why do we do it?"

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.