What is a flame? — When a house catches fire… What is a flame? — When a house catches fire… – SOMETHING ABOUT SCIENCE

What is a flame? — When a house catches fire…

“FIRE!!” In the middle of the night last week, I was woken up to find a neighbor’s house fast ablaze. The entire framework crackled and was engulfed by flames which glared bright orange against the night. Fortunately, no one was hurt, as the house was under construction, and the neighboring houses had been evacuated before they, too, caught fire.

Here are some images that recapitulate the (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime experience.


But this being a science blog, my question to you is, “What is a flame?” And better yet, can you explain flames in a way everyone, including children, can understand and enjoy learning?

Alan Alda and the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, New York, have asked the same question to scientists. The Flame Challenge invited scientists to communicate science clearly to the public by explaining what flames are in a way simple and fun, yet educational. The challenge received over 800 entries, which were judged by over 6,000 children aged 11.

The winner of the Flame Challenge went to Ben Ames, a fellow PhD student in Austria, studying how atoms interact with light. Here is his brilliant video that will make things clear, like why flames are hot and have different colors. Enjoy!

Enjoyed the video? The organizers are now calling for the question for next year’s challenge, which children between 10-12 years old can vote on their website.

With the arrival of summer, things get easier to burn in hot and dry days. Take extra caution when you enjoy BBQs and cigarettes. Stay safe this summer!

Thank you for reading the post. See you next week! 🙂

The Flame Challenge – the Center for Communicating Science

Lynn Kimlicka

I am a scientist-turned writer and editor, who loves to read and write (more than doing experiments). I have a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology, with a specialization in structural biology. My interests range widely, from life sciences to pop culture and arts to music. I am bilingual in English and Japanese.

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