Tag Archives: fire

The Flame Challenge Revisited

Since the winner of the Flame Challenge has been announced (congratulations to Ben Ames with his animated video!), I thought I’d, for the sake of some potential feedback, publish my humble entry and comment a bit on the challenge itself. For those of you who’re not sure what I’m talking about, the Flame Challenge was an initiative spearheaded by Alan Alda which sought an answer to a seemingly simple question: what is a flame?

A flaming matchstick.

What is this?

When Alda was 11, he’d asked this of his science teacher, and the teacher replied simply “it’s oxidation,” which is a thoroughly unsatisfying answer. In an effort to get people thinking about how to make science accessible to young people, Alda challenged the science community (and anyone else who was interested) to explain what a flame was in a way that an 11-year-old could understand it. Classes of 11-year-olds all over the US judged the entries, and the challenge will now become an annual initiative (though with a different question each year).

Here’s a few short paragraphs that I submitted.

Continue reading