Marcelo Gleiser

Marcelo Gleiser is a contributor to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. He is the Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College.

Gleiser is the author of the books The Prophet and the Astronomer (Norton & Company, 2003); The Dancing Universe: From Creation Myths to the Big Bang (Dartmouth, 2005); A Tear at the Edge of Creation (Free Press, 2010); and The Island of Knowledge (Basic Books, 2014). He is a frequent presence in TV documentaries and writes often for magazines, blogs and newspapers on various aspects of science and culture.

He has authored over 100 refereed articles, is a Fellow and General Councilor of the American Physical Society and a recipient of the Presidential Faculty Fellows Award from the White House and the National Science Foundation.

Pages

13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:53 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Should You Trust That New Medical Study?

Alexander Raths iStockphoto

News of medical studies fill the headlines and airwaves — often in blatant contradiction. We've all seen it: One week, coffee helps cure cancer; the next, it causes it.

From a consumer's perspective, the situation can be very confusing and potentially damaging — for example, in a case where someone with a serious illness believes and follows the wrong lead.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:54 pm
Sun March 22, 2015

Take A Shorter Shower — It's World Water Day

iStockphoto

Even though water scarcity is probably among the top of our list of 21st century worries, few people stress about it unless directly lacking a safe source of ample water.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:08 am
Wed March 18, 2015

Much Rests On The Enhanced Large Hadron Collider

Part of the Large Hadron Collider.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 18, 2015 1:11 pm

Get ready to look at the universe through a new window.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:17 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Do Fairies Live In The Multiverse?

Stephane Bidouze iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 3:43 pm

When I became a physicist, my dream was simple, even if ambitious: I wanted to understand nature, to build theories that would make predictions that would eventually be verified by experiments. I would then be like those heroes of physical science — Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Antoine Lavoisier, Niels Henrik, David Bohr — people who built narratives that pried open some of nature's secrets; people who were able to see the essence of physical reality beyond most of us.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:19 am
Wed February 25, 2015

The Man Who Turned Life Into Magic

Oliver Sacks in 2007.
Adam Scourfield ASSOCIATED PRESS

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 3:18 pm

I was shocked and saddened to read Oliver Sacks' New York Times op-ed last Thursday where he told of his terminal liver cancer from a previous, rare ocular melanoma. As of Wednesday evening, there were 808 comments from readers, all deeply touched by Oliver's humanity. He deserves no less.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
6:30 am
Wed February 18, 2015

Clinging To Timelessness In A Changing Cosmos

Steve Cole iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 10:43 am

We humans long for permanence, for some kind of lasting presence. Witness the closing lines of Shakespeare's famous "Sonnet 18":

"So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:05 am
Wed February 11, 2015

Should We Be Afraid Of Aliens?

Might nightmarish alien beings, like these imagined ones, invade Earth?
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 11:32 am

In the long list of modern fears, bloodthirsty aliens may not rank near the top. We have more immediate worries, from terrorism and bioengineered (or not) global epidemics to nuclear holocaust and natural disasters.

However, the notion that other intelligences exist out there in the universe is pervasive in popular culture. Mirrors to our own history, in particular colonial exploitations, aliens are often portrayed as evil invaders bent on coming here to wreak havoc.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:57 am
Wed February 4, 2015

Lessons From The Beginning Of Time

An image of the large spiral galaxy NGC 1232, located about 100 million light-years away in the constellation Eridanus (The River). The central areas contain older stars of reddish color, while the spiral arms are populated by young, blue stars and many star-forming regions.
ESO

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 1:42 pm

The news came out last week that, after a painstaking data analysis involving two teams of scientists, the much-hyped detection of gravitational waves from the Big Bang — announced almost a year ago — was indeed a false alarm: The spiral-shaped distortions in the very fabric of space were mostly caused by a much less dramatic culprit, interstellar dust grains. Close but no cigar, at least not for a while.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:19 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Is An Identical Copy Of You, You?

iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 2:52 pm

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:31 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Was 2014 The Hottest Year On Record — Or Not?

Icebergs float in Iceland's Jökulsárlón glacial lake, where the Vatnajökull glacier is retreating quickly due to global warming.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 8:47 am

Since the Jan. 16 release of findings by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) indicating that 2014 has been the hottest year on record, naysayers have criticized the report as being exaggerated and distorted.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
1:21 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Capturing Changes In The Way We Connect

Courtesy of Jacob F. Lucas

Originally published on Wed January 14, 2015 4:13 pm

After reading a recent post of mine focusing on whether we should be living our lives, or capturing them, photographer Jacob F. Lucas got in touch. He recently put together a book called Commute Culture that addresses this same topic through pictures.

I decided to find out what inspired him to delve into this subject matter. Here are some highlights from our discussion:

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:40 am
Wed January 7, 2015

As 2015 Begins, Some Ruminations On Science And Life

iStockphoto

Over the years, I've been collecting thought fragments and sentences that come to me during the day or in the course of my writing books and essays.

Since this is a time of introspection and self-analysis, I wanted to share some of them with the 13.7 readers — along with my wishes for a creative and healthy 2015. I hope these may be useful to you in one way or another. Here it goes:

Limits are not obstacles but triggers that expand your boundaries.

Boundaries can be jails or invitations — it all depends on how you see them.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:48 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Black Holes And Our Cosmic Future

iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 10:06 am

With the movies Interstellar and The Theory of Everything out, black holes are in the news, exciting people's imagination.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:16 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Space, Time, Love And Stephen Hawking

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in 2006.
ELIZABETH DALZIEL AP

Stephen Hawking is the world's most famous scientist. I can't think of another example of a scientist who has had so many headlines and, now, a biographic movie while still alive.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:53 am
Wed December 3, 2014

A Quest For The Unattainable Unification Of Knowledge

iStockphoto

In his recent book, The Meaning of Human Existence, the celebrated evolutionary biologist, entomologist and essayist Edward Wilson sets off to chart a possible path toward the unification of the sciences and the humanities — taking off from his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. If we are successful, claims Wilson, we should arrive at a deeply transformative understanding of the meaning of our existence.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:14 am
Wed November 19, 2014

The Little Comet Probe That Could

This combination photo produced with different images shows Philae after landing on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
AP

Even with all the drama — and now the prolonged silence, possibly permanent — the European Space Agency's (ESA) mission to land a fridge-sized probe on a comet zipping at about 80,000 miles per hour, some 300 million miles from Earth, was a resounding success. This first ever comet landing has captivated the world as very few events in the history — certainly the recent history — of space exploration have.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:07 am
Thu November 13, 2014

The Science Of 'Interstellar'

Actor Matthew McConaughey poses with a model spacecraft at the premiere of the film Interstellar in October.
Joel Ryan AP

Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 8:06 pm

Every child must leave home one day — but rarely because he has destroyed his home.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:49 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Despite Disasters, Explore We Must

File photo of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.
Reed Saxon AP

The crash of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo over the Mojave Desert last Friday, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injuring pilot Peter Siebold, has renewed discussions on the value of commercial space exploration. Should we continue to do this at the unavoidable cost of human life? Is this simply a moneymaking enterprise so that a few people that can afford the $250,000 price tag can float for a few minutes at the edge of Earth's atmosphere?

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:51 am
Wed October 22, 2014

The Void Is A Busy Place

A computer-generated image of the distribution of matter in the nearby universe, as determined by means of galaxy motions in the region.
ESO

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 1:46 pm

At least when it comes to physical reality, which I define here as that which exists in the cosmos, there is no such thing as complete emptiness.

Quite the opposite, it seems that the more we learn about nature, the busier space becomes. We can, of course, contemplate the idea of a metaphysical emptiness, a complete void where there is nothing, what some people like to call absolute nothingness. But these are concepts we make up, not necessarily things that exist. In fact, calling nothingness a "thing" automatically makes it into a something, a curious paradox.

Read more
13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:11 am
Wed October 15, 2014

The Never-Ending Climb Of Mount Science

Alexandru Sava iStockphoto

The other day, I was giving a public lecture when someone asked me a question that I wish people would ask me more often: "Professor: Why are you a scientist?"

I answered that I couldn't do anything else, that I considered it a privilege to dedicate my life to teaching and research. But what's really special in this profession, to me at least, is that it allows us the space to create something new, something that will make us matter. It gives us an opportunity to engage with the "mystery," as Albert Einstein called our attraction to the unknown:

Read more

Pages