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The Flame Challenge

drafterman
Posts: 18,870
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6/13/2012 7:34:03 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
I think one of the greatest challenges science has (other than furthering its own ends) is conveying the knowledge attained to the general public.

There is the difficulty in rephrasing some concepts into understandable terms, combined with the risk of accidentally giving the wrong impression about some scientific concept when something is lost in translation.

Consider how much "woo" has arisen from misunderstanding the Observer Effect in quantum mechanics.

Enter, "The Flame Challenge"

Alan Alda (yes, that Alan Alda), founder of the Center for Communicating Science, issued this challenge to any scientist willing to take it. The challenge was to explain, in a video, exactly what a flame is, in such a manner as to be understood and accepted by 11 year olds.

The results were amazing. Over 800 scientists submitted entries. After being independently reviewed for accuracy, 11 year olds, from schools all over the country, viewed and rated these videos. Videos which were engaging, humorous, and education got high marks, while videos which "dumbed down" the subject material were rated ower. As one student said, "We're 11, not 7."

Ultimately, the kids chose the winner, which can be viewed here:
http://flamechallenge.org...

All in all, I think this is fantastic. First, it appears that scientists are willing to latch onto such an opportunity to make the knowledge of science more accessible, especially in ways in which it is understood, rather than misunderstood. Ben Ames, the winner, perhaps had an advantage as he had a background in visual arts, but, in an interview with NPR (Science Friday), he described feeling a rush from the process, in that he had never been more fully engage, intellectually.

Second, it not only shows the willingness, but the capability of children to learn and understand such concepts. I think we consistently underestimate and undervalue children in this regard.

Lastly, this is not a one-time thing. Alan is intent on issueing addition challenges in the future. While this topic, "What is a Flame?" was chosen by him, he intends to solicit kids for future topics. It looks like scientists will have their work cut out for them, as preliminary entries include such questions as "What is time?"
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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6/13/2012 9:33:18 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
This is an absurd way to waste the time of great minds, when they can be doing something that's actually progressive rather than figure out flamboyant ways to describe mundane concepts.
drafterman
Posts: 18,870
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6/13/2012 9:38:09 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/13/2012 9:33:18 AM, Ren wrote:
This is an absurd way to waste the time of great minds, when they can be doing something that's actually progressive rather than figure out flamboyant ways to describe mundane concepts.

First, what's the point of progressing science if we can't convey that knowledge to the public at large?

Second, these minds are great because they had to first learn science. By being able to explain more complex concepts to a younger audience, we can set the groundwork to create even greater minds.

Third, dude did this in his free time. They're scientists, not fvcking slaves.
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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6/13/2012 9:51:21 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/13/2012 9:38:09 AM, drafterman wrote:
At 6/13/2012 9:33:18 AM, Ren wrote:
This is an absurd way to waste the time of great minds, when they can be doing something that's actually progressive rather than figure out flamboyant ways to describe mundane concepts.

First, what's the point of progressing science if we can't convey that knowledge to the public at large?

The public at large generally doesn't have the comprehension skills to understand real science.

Second, these minds are great because they had to first learn science. By being able to explain more complex concepts to a younger audience, we can set the groundwork to create even greater minds.

Survival of the fittest. Those great minds engaged science in the world and social climate we currently have. Clearly, with 400 respondents, there's little we need to change in that regard.

Third, dude did this in his free time. They're scientists, not fvcking slaves.

Lots of free time there. Just saying.
drafterman
Posts: 18,870
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6/13/2012 10:13:06 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/13/2012 9:51:21 AM, Ren wrote:
At 6/13/2012 9:38:09 AM, drafterman wrote:
At 6/13/2012 9:33:18 AM, Ren wrote:
This is an absurd way to waste the time of great minds, when they can be doing something that's actually progressive rather than figure out flamboyant ways to describe mundane concepts.

First, what's the point of progressing science if we can't convey that knowledge to the public at large?

The public at large generally doesn't have the comprehension skills to understand real science.

They're certainly not born with it. Which is why it's taught.


Second, these minds are great because they had to first learn science. By being able to explain more complex concepts to a younger audience, we can set the groundwork to create even greater minds.

Survival of the fittest. Those great minds engaged science in the world and social climate we currently have. Clearly, with 400 respondents, there's little we need to change in that regard.

"Survival of the fittest" makes no sense in this regard. We should always be striving to change things for the better.


Third, dude did this in his free time. They're scientists, not fvcking slaves.

Lots of free time there. Just saying.

No, that isn't what you are "just saying." What you said was:

"This is an absurd way to waste the time of great minds, when they can be doing something that's actually progressive rather than figure out flamboyant ways to describe mundane concepts."

Which basically is a statement to the affect that scientists aren't allowed to have free time to do with as they please.

What is it you do again?
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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6/13/2012 10:17:27 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/13/2012 10:13:06 AM, drafterman wrote:
At 6/13/2012 9:51:21 AM, Ren wrote:
At 6/13/2012 9:38:09 AM, drafterman wrote:
At 6/13/2012 9:33:18 AM, Ren wrote:
This is an absurd way to waste the time of great minds, when they can be doing something that's actually progressive rather than figure out flamboyant ways to describe mundane concepts.

First, what's the point of progressing science if we can't convey that knowledge to the public at large?

The public at large generally doesn't have the comprehension skills to understand real science.

They're certainly not born with it. Which is why it's taught.

No. Some people can't be taught.

I mean, consider what a waste it would be, to have those brilliant minds trying to teach blacks or mexicans something about science.

Things can't be so "general." We need a focused approach to fixing things like education.

Second, these minds are great because they had to first learn science. By being able to explain more complex concepts to a younger audience, we can set the groundwork to create even greater minds.

Survival of the fittest. Those great minds engaged science in the world and social climate we currently have. Clearly, with 400 respondents, there's little we need to change in that regard.

"Survival of the fittest" makes no sense in this regard. We should always be striving to change things for the better.


Third, dude did this in his free time. They're scientists, not fvcking slaves.

Lots of free time there. Just saying.

No, that isn't what you are "just saying." What you said was:

"This is an absurd way to waste the time of great minds, when they can be doing something that's actually progressive rather than figure out flamboyant ways to describe mundane concepts."

Which basically is a statement to the affect that scientists aren't allowed to have free time to do with as they please.

What is it you do again?

I'm a research analyst and a forensic pathologist, and I can tell you from experience that scientist don't have "free time."
Thaumaturgy
Posts: 166
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6/13/2012 10:21:30 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/13/2012 9:33:18 AM, Ren wrote:
This is an absurd way to waste the time of great minds, when they can be doing something that's actually progressive rather than figure out flamboyant ways to describe mundane concepts.

Must most strenuously disagree! Some scientists are naturally better at making science approachable and some are horrible at it. But in the end the role of the scientist is also to make sure the information can get out of their head to others.

What I found in grad school was that I never truly understood a concept until I had to TEACH it. I started off as a horrible teacher who could barely communicate to the students, but I watched and learned from others how to approach the topic.

After I started working I always tried to make time to keep teaching in the evenings. While working full time jobs I would teach at local colleges in the evenings.

But there are some scientists who excel at doing one small bit of stuff but doing it exceedingly well.

And besides: getting science out there to the public helps science and the public. There is literally no downside to this effort.
drafterman
Posts: 18,870
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6/13/2012 10:21:43 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/13/2012 10:17:27 AM, Ren wrote:

I mean, consider what a waste it would be, to have those brilliant minds trying to teach blacks or mexicans something about science.

Oh, you're trolling. Nevermind.
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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6/20/2012 11:03:36 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/13/2012 10:17:27 AM, Ren wrote:
I'm a research analyst and a forensic pathologist, and I can tell you from experience that scientist don't have "free time."

You spend your free time on DDO, don't you?

Free time just means time not devoted to making a living. Teaching is a legitimate and important way to spend that time.
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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6/20/2012 1:16:12 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/20/2012 11:03:36 AM, RoyLatham wrote:
At 6/13/2012 10:17:27 AM, Ren wrote:
I'm a research analyst and a forensic pathologist, and I can tell you from experience that scientist don't have "free time."

You spend your free time on DDO, don't you?

Free time just means time not devoted to making a living. Teaching is a legitimate and important way to spend that time.

You're right... I was trolling.

This is literally one of the best, most exciting campaigns I've ever heard. I am very impressed -- particularly with the winner.
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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6/20/2012 1:17:07 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
LOL, and I'm not a forensic anything. Although I often perform qualitative and hermeneutic research professionally, I'm mostly a teacher.