For many students, complicated jargon can make science a daunting subject. Actor and science advocate Alan Alda experienced this first-hand when, as an 11-year-old student, he asked his teacher what a flame was. After a moment of thought, she replied "oxidation"; a word that left him just as puzzled as before.
This experience stuck with him through the years and inspired him to issue "The Flame Challenge"; a competition asking scientists to explain a flame in terms that an 11-year-old can understand. The judges, over 6,000 11-year-olds from around the world, recently chose a fiery animated video created by an American graduate student in Austria as the winner.
At the heart of this challenge is the need to make science more accessible to students and the public. Alda argues that because we are surrounded by science every day, it is more important than ever for people to understand scientific concepts and technology. He spoke with Miles O'Brien about the challenge, and about the responsibility scientists with good communication skills have to inform the public about what they do.
"It's an obligation to share the fruits of your research with the public. If the public doesn't embrace science, then not only does science go out of business. So does the public. So does your country." - Neil deGrasse Tyson, American Museum of Natural History.
1. What does the word "jargon" mean?
2. Who is Alan Alda? Why did he issue his challenge?
3. What was the point of "The Flame Challenge"?
1. Do you think it is necessary to make science easily accessible? Why or why not?
2. Do you think that scientists have an obligation to communicate with the public?
3. How can scientists better reach out and explain their work to the public?