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
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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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:26 am
Sun November 9, 2014

Can Dancing Teach You Quantum Physics?


Originally published on Sun November 9, 2014 9:53 pm

I was being pushed back into the chair. The bass notes were so deep and came so fast it was like someone pounding on my chest. Visions of atoms, galaxies and pure data exploded on the stage as words and symbols, pulses across banks of HD screens.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
6:47 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Need Perspective? Watch Our Crazy Star, The Sun

This image from Monday shows extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the hot solar material in the sun's atmosphere.

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 11:59 am

I often tell my students that one reason to study science is that it puts our lives into perspective.

Yes, the world is a mess and, yes, people can be completely horrible to each other but, hey, check out the veins on this leaf or the spots on that caterpillar. How did they get that way? Isn't that freaking awesome AND beautiful?

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:59 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Does Being 'Spiritual But Not Religious' Really Mean Anything?


Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 6:48 pm

"Spiritual But Not Religious" is a phrase you hear more and more these days — and with good reason. In 2012, a Pew Foundation survey on religion found that almost 20 percent of Americans placed themselves in the category of "unaffiliated."

That 20 percent unaffiliated translates into a whole lot of people. It's a big enough number that, most likely, your next airport van ride will include someone without traditional religious attachments onboard.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
1:32 am
Thu October 16, 2014

When Is It OK For Scientists To Become Political?

David Jones iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue November 4, 2014 6:32 pm

It's not everyday that a world famous climate scientist gets himself arrested in front of the White House. But that's exactly what happened to James Hansen in 2011 as part of a protest against the Keystone Pipeline.

In the 1980s it was Hansen's highly respected work that helped people realize that the climate change we humans were driving was real — and really dangerous.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:10 am
Tue October 7, 2014

How Do U Film Txts? Here's How Technology And Cinema Evolve Together.

Originally published on Tue October 7, 2014 4:46 pm

If you love movies, give yourself the next five minutes to watch this video.

Every Frame a Painting is a series of explorations on films and film technique by Tony Zhou, a San Francisco based filmmaker and editor. In each "video essay," Zhou unpacks the cinematic craft with humor and insight.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:05 am
Tue September 30, 2014

When Science Gets Ahead Of Itself

Cosmic microwave background seen by Planck.

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 4:11 am

Ah, I remember it like it was just last spring. The flurry of rumors, the initial shock, the charge of surprise, the sheer delight before a major scientific discovery. Yes, I remember it like it was last spring because — it was.

And now it's all dust.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:49 am
Tue September 16, 2014

Is Atheist Awe A Religious Experience?

Falls at Letchworth State Park in New York.

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 10:56 am

"Where were you?" my beloved asked as I walked through the door caked in mud and sweat. "I was communing with my gods," I responded — and proceeded to tell her about the exquisite hike I'd had that morning in New York's Letchworth State Park (the Grand Canyon of the East).

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:07 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Can We Jump-Start A New Space Age?

An artist's view of BoldlyGo's SCIM mission in which a probe would skim the Martian atmosphere capturing dust particles and returning them to Earth.
BoldlyGo Institute, Inc.

Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 2:42 pm

Jon Morse, former astrophysics division director at NASA, can remember the exact moment he knew things had to change.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:50 am
Tue September 2, 2014

Cute Dog Video Answers Mystery Of The Cosmos. Maybe

Originally published on Tue September 2, 2014 1:26 pm

The path from ignorance to knowledge, from darkness to light and from purposelessness to puppies goes something like this:

  • Around 400 B.C., the Greek philosopher Democritus and other "atomists" make the radical proposition that below all the worlds' appearances, all matter is composed of tiny, indivisible particles.
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