Adam Frank

Adam Frank is a contributor to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. A professor at the University of Rochester, Frank is a theoretical/computational astrophysicist and currently heads a research group developing supercomputer code to study the formation and death of stars. Frank's research has also explored the evolution of newly born planets and the structure of clouds in the interstellar medium. Recently, he has begun work in the fields of astrobiology and network theory/data science. Frank also holds a joint appointment at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, a Department of Energy fusion lab.

Frank is the author of two books: The Constant Fire, Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate (University of California Press, 2010), which was one of SEED magazine's "Best Picks of The Year," and About Time, Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang (Free Press, 2011). He has contributed to The New York Times and magazines such as Discover, Scientific American and Tricycle.

Frank's work has also appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009. In 1999 he was awarded an American Astronomical Society prize for his science writing.


13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:55 am
Tue March 24, 2015

What If Web Search Results Were Based On Accuracy?

Matjaz Boncina iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 1:24 pm

Imagine, for a moment, that every Web search gave only accurate, verified information. Imagine that questions concerning real facts about the real world returned lists of websites ordered by how well those site's facts matched the real world.

Search for "Barack Obama's nationality," and websites claiming "Kenya" would be banished to the 32nd page of the list. Search for "measles and autism" and you'd have to scroll down for 10 minutes before you found a page claiming they were linked.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:55 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

How A Soggy Solar System Can Spark A New Human Future

S. Jastrzebski iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 4:50 pm

Let's begin with your great-great-great-etc.-grandparents. I'm talking eight or nine of those "greats," meaning your ancestors living around the first decades of the 1800s.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:09 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Are 'Big' Truths Better Than 'Small' Truths?


Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 3:49 pm

There is a TV show dedicated to big ideas. There is a website just for big thinking and another for big questions. The search for "big truths" seems pretty popular right now.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:39 am
Tue March 3, 2015

Can Cities Change Earth's Evolution?

Chicago skyline.

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 2:43 pm

When Charles Darwin first taught us how to think about evolution, he also was teaching us to think about time. By allowing natural selection to work over millions of years, what might seem like a divine miracle (the creation of a new kind of animal) became something much more grounded (though equally wondrous).

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:11 am
Tue February 24, 2015

My Depressing Day With A Famous Climate Skeptic


Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 4:45 pm

On Sunday, The New York Times ran a damning story about Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon, a scientist who's played an outsized role in the public debate over climate change.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:03 am
Tue February 17, 2015

Shock, Awe And Science

Artist depiction of the rings of planet J1407b with Saturn and its rings (in the distance) shown for comparison.
Ron Miller Courtesy of Eric Mamajek

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 2:38 pm

Imagine you walked outside one morning and there was a 30,000-pound cat sitting in your front yard. Imagine that, on the way to work, you walked past a mushroom the size of a house. Imagine that, in the midst of all the mundane, day-to-day things you take for granted, something utterly new — and utterly unexpected — plopped itself into your reality.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
6:11 am
Tue February 10, 2015

The Moon Like You Have Never Seen It Before


Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 9:58 am

There are many invisible realities that lie hidden from us. Some things happen too fast for us to see. Some things are too small to see. Some things are too far away. Some things, however, are right in front of us, but we are just in the wrong position to get a clear view.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:21 am
Tue February 3, 2015

Science Denialism Has Consequences

A measles outbreak began at Disneyland in California and has since traveled to other parts of the country.
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 3:56 pm

When I was kid, there was this commercial that became a 1970s version of a meme. In it, Mother Nature is seen in a forest with a gathering of animals telling fairytales about Goldilocks eating porridge covered with sweet butter. When informed that her porridge is, in fact, slathered in Chiffon margarine and not butter, Mother Nature becomes enraged. As the sky darkens and the clouds rumble, she snarls, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!"

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:11 am
Tue January 27, 2015

The Most Dangerous Ideas In Science

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 3:06 pm

There's a battle going on at the edge of the universe, but it's getting fought right here on Earth. With roots stretching back as far as the ancient Greeks, in the eyes of champions on either side, this fight is a contest over nothing less than the future of science. It's a conflict over the biggest cosmic questions humans can ask and the methods we use — or can use — to get answers for those questions.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
6:07 am
Tue January 20, 2015

What If Heaven Is Not For Real?

An 1870 engraving by Gustave Dore depicts the vision of the golden ladder, a scene from Dante's Paradiso.
D. Walker iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue January 20, 2015 9:47 am

Last week, a young man named Alex Malarkey made news when he publicly retracted his story that he'd been to heaven. This, understandably, may not seem like news to some people. But Malarkey's story, based on the tragedy of an auto accident when he was just 6 years old, became a best-selling book called The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:51 am
Tue January 13, 2015

The Invisible World Has A Funky Fresh Beat

Nigel John Stanford/YouTube

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 7:48 am

How much do you think you are missing right now — in this very moment, as you sit reading these words? How much of the world's grace and power do you think is cascading around you unseen like a swift, invisible river?

Most of it.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:04 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Setting The Record Straight For Alan Turing

Alan M Turing and colleagues work on the Ferranti Mark I Computer in the United Kingdom in 1951.
Science & Society Picture Library via Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 1:37 pm

Imagine, for a moment, that Albert Einstein's greatest contributions were kept secret at the highest levels of government. Imagine, for a moment, that while still relatively young, Einstein was prosecuted, shamed and driven to suicide for the inclinations of his affections. Imagine, for a moment, that in the wake of the secrecy, the shame and the suicide, you never knew Albert Einstein's name.

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Book Reviews
4:36 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Book Review: 'Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion'

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:25 am
Tue December 23, 2014

The Magic Of Christmas Eve Goes Beyond Religion

Shunyu Fan iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 4:32 pm

It was late at night one Christmas Eve in the mid-1980s — New York City was a still a murky mix of squalor and grandeur then — when I found myself stranded at a bus stop near 121rd Street after a botched reunion with an ex-girlfriend. The street was empty and quiet and peaceful in a way only Christmas Eve (or apocalyptic blizzards) can manifest.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:11 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Seeing Heaven: The Beauty of Cosmigraphics

1660: These depictions of the sun in a Ptolemaic, geocentric cosmos, and in the alternative, heliocentric scheme proposed by Copernicus, are from Andreas Cellarius's sumptuous Harmonia macrocosmica. The sun has expanded radically in size and its facial expression has acquired a solemnity in keeping with its enhanced stature. Note Cellarius's depictions of the moon, far smaller than Earth.
Courtesy of the University of Michigan Library

If I asked you to picture the universe in your head, you'd probably conjure up images of fiery stars and swirling galaxies.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:07 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Searching For Proof Of The Unseen

Do you wonder if the refrigerator light goes off when you shut the door?
Lisa Kimberly Getty Images/Flickr Select

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 4:31 pm

We human beings are curious by nature. Since the time we first began gathering around campfires to ward off the terrors of the night, some questions have haunted us like stubborn ghosts.

Many of these great unknowns have fallen under the weight of passing millennia and the advance of technology. We moderns now know why the ground shakes in an earthquake and why the sky rumbles in a thunderstorm.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
6:52 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Confessions Of An Astrophysicist: I'm In Love With A Star

The star Mira, commentator Adam Frank's love interest, leaves a trail of gas — light-years across — as it hurtles through space.

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 2:37 pm

So, I'm in love and it's not an easy thing.

Though my beloved is beautiful and subtle and bestowed of great grace, there also is a terrible distance between us. Nothing I do can bridge that gulf, and the object of my affections will not acknowledge me. But I don't care. For those in love know that enduring the indifference and the distance is nothing but a tiny price to pay.

My love, of course, is a star. Her name is Mira.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:03 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Something To Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving


There are many things you can be thankful for this year. You have your health, your beloved, your children, your family, your friends, your work, your home and your pets. But, of course, it may be that this year difficulties appeared in any one of these domains. There is a portion of suffering visited upon each of us — and its burden can, at times, be crushing.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
2:55 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Should Science End Humankind?


Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 6:23 pm

"I want you to hold off on your intellectual gag response," the speaker told us. "I want you to stay with me through this 'til we get to the end."

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:12 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Are You Important?


Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 3:07 pm

What if there were a science that could help you understand why high school was (for so many of us) so horrible? What if there were a science that laid bare the dynamics of cliques, "in" crowds and outsiders with the mathematical precision of a moon shot?

Well, there pretty much is such a science — and, as the age of "big data" rises, this new field called network science is opening vistas on everything from high school social webs to the spread of deadly diseases.

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