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.



Wed December 17, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Black Holes And Our Cosmic Future

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.

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Wed December 10, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Space, Time, Love And Stephen Hawking

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in 2006.

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.

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Wed December 3, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

A Quest For The Unattainable Unification Of Knowledge


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.

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Wed November 19, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

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.

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.

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Thu November 13, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Science Of 'Interstellar'

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

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

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

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Wed November 5, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

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?

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Wed October 29, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Can Scientific Belief Go Too Far?

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 6:33 pm


Last week, our own Tania Lombrozo ignited an intense discussion of the differences between factual and religious belief. I want to take off from there and examine a no less controversial issue, one that has been in the limelight of cutting-edge physics for the past few years: Do some scientists hold on to a belief longer than they should? Or, more provocatively phrased, when does a scientific belief become an article of faith?

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Wed October 22, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Void Is A Busy Place

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

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

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.

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Wed October 15, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

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:

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Wed October 8, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Superintelligence: Triumph Or Threat?

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 9:59 am

I recently started reading Superintelligence, a new book by Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom, who is also director of the Future of Humanity Institute. (Now, that's a really cool job title.)

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