The Jack '76 and Carol '76 Kramer Endowed Lectureship
Dr. Adam Frank, Astrophysicist
"Light of the Stars: Seeing Climate Change and the Human Future in Our Universe Awash in Worlds"
Wed. April 28th, 2.30-3.45pm
We humans, with our “project of civilization” are a kind of cosmic teenager. We have power over ourselves, and the planet, but no model to follow. In this talk Prof Frank shows how our fate can best be understood in light of the stars. Thanks to the revolutionary field of astrobiology, we have discovered that we are just one of ten billion trillion habitable planets in the Universe. Unless the laws of the universe are deeply biased against life and intelligence, it’s highly improbable that we are the first project of civilization in cosmic history. So, what then can we learn from the others that have almost certainly existed?
Unpacking the exploration of our solar system and beyond, Prof Frank shows how we have already learned universal “laws of planets”. With this new view we can tell how life (including the intelligent kind) and its host worlds can evolve together. From microbes generating Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere to the discovery of Venus’ runaway greenhouse effect, we can now lay out the contours of what happened here and what may happen elsewhere. With this “10,000 light-year” view we gain a new story of our future on a changing Earth. It's a narrative rich with both hope and caution.
About Dr. Adam Frank, Astrophysicist, "Evangelist of Science", University of Rochester
Astrophysicist Adam Frank is the Helen F. and Fred G. Gowen Professor at the University of Rochester's Department of Physics and Astronomy. He is a leading expert on the final stages of evolution for stars like the sun and his computational research group at the University of Rochester has developed advanced supercomputer tools for studying how stars form and how planets evolve. His current work also focuses on life in the Universe, the search for “technosignatures” from other exo-civilizations along with climate change and the “Astrobiology of the Anthropocene”.
A self-described “evangelist of science,” Adam is committed to showing others the beauty and power of science, and exploring the proper context of science in culture. His last book Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth received praise from the New York Times, NPR and Scientific American. It also won the national Phi Beta Kappa Society's best science book for 2019. He has written two other books, The Constant Fire: Beyond the Religion and Science Debate, and About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang.
Adam is a regular on-air commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered. He was co-founder of National Public Radio 13.7: Cosmos and Culture blog which ran for 7 years and garnered tens of millions of distinct views. A new incarnation of the blog "13.8" is now featured on BigThink.com. Adam is also a contributor to the New York Times, NBC, the Washington Post, and other media outlets. It was for this kind of outreach work that the American Physical Society awarded him their prestigious 2019 Joseph Burton Forum Award honoring a scientist for their impact on the broader culture.
Adam also served as the science consultant for Marvel’s Dr. Strange, which he thought was the coolest thing to happen ever. Adam has appeared on many popular media outlets such as The Joe Rogan Experience, Coast to Coast radio and others. He has been been featured on a variety of national and international science documentaries such Alien Worlds on Netflix, Mars (season 2) on National Geographic and The Universe on the History Channel.
Example Footage: NPR mini-documentary