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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Let's be clear about that

Recently, I heard Alan Alda on the National Public Radio's Science Friday talking about an interesting program he helped establish called “The Flame Challenge.”  Each year 11-year-old kids get the opportunity to ask a question that is then given to scientists around the world to answer “in language that is clearly understandable by an 11-year-old.”   To make sure it’s clearly understandable, 11-year-olds worldwide also are the judges.   This year’s question:  “What is sleep?”

The Flame Challenge is an outgrowth of The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, a cross-disciplinary organization founded in 2009 at Stony Brook University in New York and housed, interestingly enough, in the Department of Journalism.  Its goal “is to help scientists and science writers learn to communicate more effectively with the public.”

Too often, Alda said, both scientists and science writers have amazing things to share but they simply don’t know how to share them in clear and concise language.   “The ability to communicate,” Alda says, “is what makes us human and allows technology to advance.” 
When it comes to “effectively communicating” there’s little doubt Alda knows of what he speaks.  A 6-time Emmy winner and 6-time Golden Globe winner, he is best known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce on the long-running show M*A*S*H.   What isn’t well-known is that he wrote a couple dozen of the shows, including the award-winning finale, and won an Emmy for his writing.  He is, in fact, the first person to win Emmys for acting, writing, and directing in the same series.  He also has written several books, including a memoir with the clever title:  Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

Alan Alda – his 79th birthday is today

Here’s a link to The Flame Challenge.   Happy (and clear) writing!

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