Monday, 4 June 2012

What's a flame?

The Challenge

The challenge was to explain to an 11 year old - what is a flame?

The question was asked by...

Alan Alda, an actor, writer and founding board member of the Centre for Communicating Science.

When he was 11 years old, he was very intrigued by fire.
So he went and asked his teacher, "What's a flame?"
She took a pause and replied, "It's oxidation."
Unsatisfied by that answer, Alan has carried that dissatisfaction with him ever since. 
Alan had published this doubt as a challenge to the entire world.

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?

And the winner is...

Ben Ames, an American working on his PhD in quantum optics at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

Ben has played the piano and guitar as a kid, performed in his high school and has studied ballet.

He has a passion for films and arts apart from his natural interest in science, which has fascinated him since school. In the flame challenge,  Ben saw an opportunity to put to use all the talent he had.

As it turns out, after sifting through 800+ entries from 31 countries, Ben's movie was rated the best by 11 year old children from schools around the world!

1 comment:

  1. I recently faced this question myself while talking about the sun to my 8 year old cousin. And that's why I don't like this answer a lot. It doesn't really go beyond explaining oxidation itself. Whereas a flame could be caused due to other reasons too. For instance, is the sun made up of fire? How does that work?


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