What is time?
Simple question, yes? Indeed, but what about the answer? Last year, actor Alan Alda, together with the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, issued a challenge to scientists and science teachers to answer the apparently simple question ‘what is a flame?’ in such a way that could be understood by an eleven-year-old. It’s actually not that simple. The project, called The Flame Challenge, was inspired by Alda’s own childhood scientific curiosity, and asked schools across the United States to participate and decide on a winner from the hundreds of entries.
This video here is the entertaining winner:
This year, the challenge was inspired by the question most commonly posed by eleven-year-olds to the Center for Communicating Science: what is time? Even Albert Einstein struggled to describe what time is in simple terms, and often resorted to jokes:
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
I think this is a great initiative, to take the complex explanations for the natural mechanisms we take for granted, and deliver them in an easy to understand way – easy enough even for me.