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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?"