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
8:34 am
Wed May 27, 2015

Why Aren't The Aliens Here Already?

One artist's rendering of imagined alien beings.

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 Tue April 7, 2015 12:06 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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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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