Science may be able to explain many things about how our world works, but communicating such things in a way that can be understood by 11 year olds (or the rest of us) is not easy to do. Take a flame, for example: just what the heck is going on there? This video, winner of Alan Alda's Flame Challenge, explains it in an easy and fun way.
So, what is the Flame Challenge? Back when Alan Alda was 11 years old (this, for the record, was a little bit before M*A*S*H or Scientific American Frontiers or The West Wing), he asked one of his teachers what a flame was and was told "oxidation," which is more or less meaningless to an 11 year old kid.
After being frustrated by this for 65 years, Alda came up with the Flame Challenge, which asked scientists (or anyone else) to come up with a fun (but scientifically complete) way of explaining the science behind how a flame works to kids. Here's the winning entry, from quantum physics grad student Ben Ames:
Personally, I don't think I really understood what flame was until I watched that video. Nice job, Ben, but now that you've proven that it's possible to explain complex concepts in a simple manner, we're going to start expecting all scientists to be able to do this. In fact, I for one think that from now on, scientists receiving government funding for their research should be required to make videos like these every time they publish.