Alan Alda Challenge: Explain Sound to an 11-year-old

Can you explain the sound coming out of these tubas? (Flickr/Neimon)
Can you explain the sound coming out of these tubas? (Flickr/Neimon)

Alan Alda says he’s “all ears” for scientists to answer a question for him and 11-year-old children around the world: What is sound?

That’s the challenge being posed in the 2016 “Flame Challenge” contest, which asks scientists to explain complicated concepts in ways young people can understand.

Stony Brook University, where Alda teaches, announced the challenge on Monday. He started the challenge in 2011, which has explained time, color, and of course, what is a flame.

“When I asked what a flame was at the age of 11,” Alan said, “I was probably younger in some ways than most 11-year-olds are now.”

In 2013, he says, kids asked a very deep question, “What is Time?” He said it was fun to see how scientists around the world answered that one in everyday language.

Scientists have until Jan. 19 to submit entries in either written or video form. Eleven-year-olds will judge the entries. The winner in each format is honored in June at the World Science Festival and gets $1,000.

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