## Monday, June 04, 2012

### What is a flame? Ben Ames' answer to Alan Alda

... and 6,000 kids like Alan Alda ...

I was greatly impressed (scientifically, visually, musically, and otherwise) by this 7.5-minute video by Ben Ames, a 31-year-old Missouri-born grad student in Innsbruck, Austria where he does quantum optics:

It explains what a flame is (I am convinced that most readers will learn something new out of it) and I think it does so really well.

On Saturday, Alan Alda – a famous actor who starred as Hawkeye Pierce as well as Richard Feynman and a passionate science communicator – announced Ames' video as the winner of the Flames Challenge.

The contest has been promoted in a Science editorial by Alda himself. The announcement of the winner – chosen from a list of six finalists by 6,000 eleven-year-old kids from 130 schools who were optimized to resemble Alan Alda as a boy – took place at the World Science Festival in New York.

If you don't know what an eleven-year-old schoolboy looks like, here is one. Josef Melen (*1973) was born on the same month as your humble correspondent; LM 164 kB karaoke version here. In his greatest hit (1984), based on the melody of No Milk Today (orig), he sings "Please, don't give me a failing grade. So please, no F." [A stream of excuses follows. Czech lyrics by Francis Ringo Czech.]

I am sure that the video would tell me way too much if I were eleven. When I was just a bit younger, like 7 years old, I remember my excitement when I "discovered" that the digestive system is burning food and that's where we get the energy from. While I realized that there was no visible flame in the stomach, I was sure it had to be a similar process to fire – and I was largely right. ;-) As you could guess, pursuing too tiny details about chemistry was never my primary intent.

Via Dot Earth