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FLAME CHALLENGE: What is Climate?

Sunday, June 3, 2018
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

When Alan Alda was 11-years-old, he asked his teacher, “What’s a flame?” Her response—“It’s oxidation”—left him both disappointed and still in the dark. From this moment of discouragement blossomed today’s Flame Challenge, now in its seventh year: a contest that challenges scientists all over the world to explain a basic scientific concept simply and clearly enough that an 11-year-old can understand. This year’s Flame Challenge is “What is climate?” It’s not an easy question to answer. In this program, we will meet the winners of the challenge, hear their simple yet brilliantly clear explanations of climate, and even see a man-made floor-to-ceiling tornado.

This program is in association with The Flame Challenge™, an annual contest held by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

Meet the winners of this year’s Flame Challenge

Written Category Winner
Soumyadeep Mukherjee, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher, Program in Public Health, Stony Brook University

Video Category Winner
Michael Bronski, Ph.D. Candidate, Molecular & Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Graphic Category Winner
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Experimental Lakes Area —
Four Canadian Scientists: Cyndy Desjardins, Food Web Biologist; Geoffrey Gunn, Geographer; Sonya Havens, Research Chemist; and Hisham Osman, Hydrologist


Alan AldaActor, Author, Director

Alan Alda, a seven-time Emmy® Award winner, played Hawkeye Pierce and wrote many of the episodes on the classic TV series M*A*S*H. He has starred in, written, and directed many films, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator.

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Cyndy DesjardinsFood Web Biologist

Cyndy Desjardins is a Food Web Biologist at the International Institute for Sustainable Development Experimental Lakes Area. She has extensive field experience in limnology research, having managed and trained both laboratory teams and fieldwork teams in a large-scale, multi-year aquatic ecology project.

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Soumyadeep MukherjeePublic Health Researcher

Soumyadeep Mukherjee aka “Deep” is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Program in Public Health (PPH) at Stony Brook University. He is interested in better understanding how past traumatic and stressful experiences can impact long-term mental health and well-being.

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Bernadette Woods PlackyMeteorologist

Bernadette Woods Placky is often called upon to discuss and explain extreme weather events and has appeared on a number of national and local television broadcasts. Before coming to Climate Central, she spent 11 years as a TV weather forecaster. Her most recent station was WJZ in Baltimore, where she earned an Emmy.

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