Alan Alda Asks: What Is Color?

Alan Alda asked scientist to answer the question, “What is color?”

The "What is color" Challenge by Alan AldaFor his 2014 international science contest The Flame Challenge, Alan Alda asks scientists to communicate the answer to the complex question, “What is color?”  in a way that would engage and educate an 11-year-old.

What is Color? It’s a fundamental question that spans the sciences. It can be answered from the perspective of physics, chemistry, psychology, even from a geological or oceanographic perspective. To choose this year’s challenge, The Alda Center collected more than 800 questions from children from all over the world. Many different questions were asked about color, including “Is my blue their blue?” “Does everyone see color the same?” and, even one of the most classic childhood questions, “Why is the sky blue?”

Do you have a great way to answer that question?

You have until March 1, 2014 to submit your answer in writing, video or graphics. For rules and other information visit The Center for Communicating Science.

The "What is color" Challenge by Alan Alda

Here is how it works

The entries are screened for scientific accuracy, then  judged by thousands of 11-year-olds in schools around the world. In 2013, there were nearly 20,000 students judges! Two winners will be selected – one Written and one Visual (video or graphic entry). The winners will be brought to New York to be honored in June 2014 at the World Science Festival.

Interested in participating?

I’m thinking of getting a group together to collaborate on a great answer to that question. If you want to help come up with the answer or be willing to critique our submission please leave me a note in the comments below.



  1. I’m in! I would love research
    to learn more about the science of color!

  2. Color helps us see the world around us, defining shapes & depth with shadows. Color evokes emotions differently for each of us, as I love bold and bright colors in my home while most people are more comfortable with fairly muted colors or just a splash of accent color.

  3. Duncan Bullock says

    Color is everything to me. As a graphic design and fine artist and on an individual, I experience color in profound ways.