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.



Tue December 16, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

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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Tue December 9, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Searching For Proof Of The Unseen

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

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

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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Tue December 2, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

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

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

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

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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Tue November 25, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

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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Mon November 17, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

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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Tue November 11, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

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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Sun November 9, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

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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Tue October 28, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Need Perspective? Watch Our Crazy Star, The Sun

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

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

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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Tue October 21, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

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

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 1:52 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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Thu October 16, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

When Is It OK For Scientists To Become Political?

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

David Jones iStockphoto

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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