Tag Archives: Center for Communicating Science

Alan Alda Loves the Mental Spark of 11-Year-Olds

1212alan_aldaNo rest for Alan Alda, who is being honored tomorrow night (4/24) at the Stars of Stony Brook gala at Chelsea Piers in New York. The event will celebrate the actor-director-writer-author-science enthusiast’s greatest academic achievement to date: co-founding Stony Brook’s Center for Communicating Science.

After that, Alda will go back to juggling activities ranging from serving as front man for several functions at next month’s World Science Festival in New York City to preparing for scientific communication workshops at universities across the country to reading entries for his second annual Flame Challenge.

“This year, 20,000 students signed up,” he reports, speaking of the Center for Communicating Science’s competition in which scientists attempt to provide clear answers to questions posed by 11-year-olds. The kids then judge the scientists’ responses. The 11-year-olds also provided this year’s question: “What is time?”

“They’ll be the ones judging scientists’ entries. I haven’t seen any of the entries yet. I’ll be looking at them in a few days,” Alda stresses. “My looking at them is just out of curiosity. It’s the kids who are going to choose the winner. Winners, plural, actually — one in video and one in text.”

Why 11-year-olds?

It’s funny; that just happened. That’s how old I was when I asked my teacher, ‘What is a flame?'” recalls Alda, who will be seen again as Laura Linney’s acerbic oncologist on “The Big C,” returning for its final season April 29. He goes on, “Just looking at how kids present themselves when they judge these entries, they’re very thoughtful and very curious. And they may be going through what I was going through at 11, which is starting to ask deeper questions. And, my God, you can’t ask a deeper question than ‘What is time?'”