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Actor-turned-part-time professor Alan Alda challenges scientists to explain sleep to children

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MINEOLA, New York — Actor-turned-part-time professor Alan Alda has a new challenge for scientists: Explain sleep to an 11-year-old.

The TV and film star best known for his role in the 1970s sitcom "M.A.S.H." has had a lifelong interest in science.

The New York native teaches at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Friday, April 26, 2013 photo, actor Alan Alda listens during an interview at Stony Brook University, on New York's Long Island. Alda has a new challenge for scientists: Explain sleep to an 11-year-old. He started the annual “Flame Challenge” contest in 2011. It asks scientists to explain complex concepts in ways a child can understand. Scientists have until Feb. 13, 2015 to submit their answers about sleep in writing, video or graphics. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE - In this Friday, April 26, 2013 photo, actor Alan Alda listens during an interview at Stony Brook University, on New York's Long Island. Alda has a new challenge for scientists: Explain sleep to an 11-year-old. He started the annual “Flame Challenge” contest in 2011. It asks scientists to explain complex concepts in ways a child can understand. Scientists have until Feb. 13, 2015 to submit their answers about sleep in writing, video or graphics. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

He started the annual "Flame Challenge" contest in 2011. It asks scientists to explain complex concepts in ways a child can understand.

The first year sought an answer to "What is a flame?" That was followed by challenges to explain time and color.

Scientists have until Feb. 13 to submit their answers about sleep in writing, video or graphics.

The winning written and video or graphic entries will receive $1,000 cash prizes.

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