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
9:23 am
Tue July 28, 2015

The Divergence Of Art And Science


Originally published on Tue July 28, 2015 2:29 pm

Here at 13.7, we have have spent considerable time thinking about art and science. In particular, we've often tried to unpack the meaning of their similarities.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:27 am
Sun July 26, 2015

This Is Your Brain On The Outdoors

Alexander Burzik iStockphoto

The New York Times recently carried a fascinating report on how a walk in nature can actually change the wiring in your brain. According to the story, not only did a brief walk in the woods make people report they felt happier but, using brain scans, researchers found time nature changed neurological functioning as well.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:15 am
Tue July 21, 2015

Does Mindfulness Mean Anything?

Emir Memedovski iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue July 21, 2015 1:00 pm

We are in the middle of a mindfulness revolution.

According to Time, The Huffington Post and a host of other media outlets, mindfulness and meditation are having their moment in the spotlight. From hospitals to corporate wellness programs, mindfulness is — supposedly — a new path to relieving stress, lifting depression and increasing happiness.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:32 am
Tue July 7, 2015

How Long Would It Take To Drive To Pluto?


Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 12:22 pm

We don't make very good judges of distance, not on cosmic scales at least. Using our own wanderings on Earth as the judge of all things, evolution has left us poorly prepared for the epic scales of all things astronomical.

This week, as a box of electronics called New Horizons prepares to complete a nearly 10-year journey to Pluto, it's a good moment to reflect on just how far away even the objects in our astronomical backyard are from us.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
2:31 pm
Tue June 30, 2015

Science And The Agony Of Ignorance

A cluster of mysterious bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres can be seen in this image, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

Originally published on Tue June 30, 2015 9:31 pm

Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt. For billions of years, it has been out there, biding its time, orbiting 250 million miles from the sun.

Now, for the first time, a robot emissary from Earth has made the long dark journey to Ceres, revealing it to be a spherical, cratered world awash in the color of gray mud. Except, however, for the bright spots. The weird, mysterious bright spots.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:53 pm
Tue June 16, 2015

Why The Pope's Stand On Climate Change Matters

Marco Campagna iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue June 16, 2015 2:43 pm

Things are about to get really interesting in the long-stalled public discussion on climate change.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:38 am
Tue June 9, 2015

This Summer Explore An 'Alien' Planet: Earth

The view, from about 6,000 ft., near Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia, on June 6.
Courtesy of Adam Frank

Originally published on Tue June 9, 2015 4:16 pm

The bright sun overhead was leaning down hard. The heat on my skin felt like I was standing too close to a fire. Each step took patience, as I tried to find footholds on the softening snow.

We'd been at it for hours, trying to cross a broad alpine valley between two sharp ridges. I looked up for a moment to fill my lungs and adjust the heavy pack. The snowfield stretched into the distance, broken only by bare fields of scree. For a moment, I felt like I was walking in some alien world.

Then, I realized I was.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:20 am
Tue June 2, 2015

When Robots Run


Originally published on Tue June 2, 2015 2:57 pm

They are coming. It's just a matter of time — and the time is likely shorter than most of us imagine.

I'm talking about robots.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:34 am
Wed May 27, 2015

Why Aren't The Aliens Here Already?

One artist's rendering of imagined alien beings.

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 12:18 pm

The story begins like this: In 1950, a group of high-powered physicists were lunching together near the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:23 pm
Sun May 24, 2015

A Festival Of Science

13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:14 am
Tue May 19, 2015

One Concept That Gives Physicists A Casper-Like Haunting

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 3:25 pm

Here at 13.7: Cosmos & Culture, we strive to bring you only the finest, most complete "big answers" to life's enduring "big questions."

And when there is more than one point of view to be explored, we lock our jaws onto the issue like a metaphysical pit bull and stay that way until someone calls animal control on us. It is that relentless commitment to the truth that brings us back today to the eternal question of why, exactly, your butt doesn't fall through your chair.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:36 am
Tue May 12, 2015

Climate Denialists In Congress Acting As NASA's Kryptonite

The Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa as seen from the International Space Station.
Samantha Cristoforetti NASA/ESA

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 10:41 am

Quick: List the first four words that pop into your mind when you hear NASA.

If you are like most folks, you hit some mix of astronauts, moon landings, space telescopes and Mars probes. Those are pretty positive images representing accomplishments we can all feel proud about.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
4:00 am
Tue May 5, 2015

How We Came To Be Run By Time

Keith Tsuji iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 10:12 am

Where did time come from? How did it start?

I don't mean cosmic time in a "Big Bang" kind of way. No, I mean something far more intimate.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:26 am
Tue April 28, 2015

Why Video Games Matter

The Last of Us is a video game that breaks the traditional narrative form of storytelling in games.
Naughty Dog

Originally published on Tue April 28, 2015 11:21 am

Human beings are storytellers. This basic, constant instinct is evident throughout history — from creation narratives told around the night's fire to Greek playwrights to the first novels to the flickering images of early motion pictures.

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4:56 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Hubble Telescope Celebrates 25 Years In Space

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 7:03 pm

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It was 25 years ago tomorrow that NASA launched the Hubble Telescope. It gave us a new view of the universe, and NPR's Cosmos and Culture blogger Adam Frank tells us its remarkable work will endure for centuries.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:58 am
Tue April 21, 2015

25 Years On: How Hubble's Vision Became Our Own

The Horsehead Nebula, as seen with infrared light, shows clouds surrounding it have already dissipated. The Horsehead formation has about 5 million years left before it, too, disintegrates.

Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 11:32 am

When I was a young astrophysics grad student, I'd return home a couple of times a year. Eating dinner with some of my extended family, one of my great aunts would invariably ask why, at age 28, I was still in school.

I'd tell her about my work studying the evolution of stars — how they're born, how they die. But no matter how poetic or uplifting I tried to make my explanations, she'd always bring the conversation to an abrupt halt with the same question: "So what's it good for?"

Then they launched the Hubble Space Telescope.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:22 am
Tue April 14, 2015

Can The Earth Be Conscious?

Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon NASA

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 11:40 am

Right now, at this very moment, you are submerged in an invisible sea of information. Thoughts, ideas, ambitions and instructions — they are whispering past and through you on waves of modulated electromagnetic energy. From wireless Internet to satellite TV, you are bathed in an endless stream of purposeful, intentional signal.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:52 am
Tue April 7, 2015

Why Doesn't Your Butt Fall Through The Chair?

Franck Camhi iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon June 1, 2015 10:46 pm

Everyone knows that space is big and empty. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, author of Life, The Universe and Everything: "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the pharmacy, but that's just peanuts to space."

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:09 am
Tue March 31, 2015

How Many Stars Are There?

A view of the bright star cluster NGC 3532 from La Silla Observatory in Chile.
G. Beccari ESO

Originally published on Tue March 31, 2015 10:33 am

The night sky carries the weight of many meanings for humanity. It's the home of the gods (or God). It's the essence of distance. It's the embodiment of infinities.

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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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