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Casual Space

Jun 19, 2020

Adam is an evangelist of science. From everything sci-fi to just thinking, looking and observing the world, science has always provided a sense of oneness with the universe for Adam. Adam is a theoretical/computational astrophysicist and he heads a research group that is developing new tools for simulating the cosmos.

SO many great things discussed on this episode! 

*Beth asks Adam: Which is harder? Trying to communicate the need for a long-term investment in space exploration, or trying to change the mind of a climate denialist? 

*What are techno signatures, and why should we be looking for them?  And why would science fiction writers help us in the search? 

*AI, propulsion systems to get us to Mars, exploring the universe in the next 200 years, understanding consciousness and more…. 

Quotes from the show: 

“Science is a mechanism for being exposed to the wonder.” – Adam Frank on Casual Space 

“The universe is more creative and more imaginative than we are.” – Adam

“Machines can be intelligent, but can they be self-aware? My intuition is that we miss understand consciousness so profoundly. The philosophical tradition in which this question is asked (the western tradition) never had an empirical way of asking questions about the nature of consciousness. It took reason as the only way to explore questions about consciousness. Whereas in the classical Indian and Asian school of philosophy, (who also thought about consciousness for thousands of years and had contemplative practice), had a VERY different way of looking of things. I think that the west has sort of fooled itself, it thinks it can reduce consciousness to neural activity. The view that everything is made of atoms, and you can build your way up into something like consciousness….in fact, at least from my experiences, consciousness is where you start. Then you do this weird thing called science where you tell stories about the world, and then with experiments you can extend your reach of awareness. We can become sort of trapped thinking you can reduce consciousness to a bunch of wires.” 

Where to find Adam and his work:

Twitter: @AdamFrank4

Adam recommends!


  • Kim Stanley Robinson (sci-fi writer) 
  • The Mandalorian 
  • Passengers 


  • Alastair Reynolds
  • William Gibson 

TV Shows: 

  • Alter Carbon on Nextflix, 
  • Westworld 
  • The Expanse 


About Adam Frank: Adam Frank fell in love with astronomy when he was 5 years old and the affair has never cooled.

Late one night in the family library, Adam found the keys to the universe sketched out on the covers of his dad's pulp-science-fiction magazines—astronauts bounding across the jagged frontiers of alien worlds, starships rising to discovery on pillars of fire. The boundless world of possibilities on those covers became the one he was determined to inhabit.

Later, the love for astronomy transformed into a passion for the practice of science itself when his father's simple explanation of electric currents and sound waves turned the terror of a booming thunderstorm into an opportunity to marvel at the world's beauty. Now a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, he studies the processes that shape the formation and death of stars and has become a leading expert on the final stages of evolution for stars like the sun. Adam is a theoretical/computational astrophysicist and he heads a research group that is developing new tools for simulating the cosmos.

Adam also describes himself as an "evangelist of science." His commitment to showing others the beauty and power of science has led him to a second career as a popular writer and speaker on the subject.

He is the co-founder of National Public Radio’s 13.7: Cosmos and Culture blog as well as a regular on-air commentator for All Things Considered. He also contributes occasionally to The New York Times. Adam is the author of three books. The most recent, Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth, explores a new vision for climate change and the human future by placing them both in their proper “astrobiological” context. Climate change may likely be an expected consequence of any civilization on any planet developing an advanced industrial civilization. Adam’s first book, The Constant Fire: Beyond the Religion and Science Debate, focuses on perspectives on science and human spirituality that went beyond the usual creationism vs. Richard Dawkins debate. About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang explores the links between changing conceptions of cosmology and the human experience of time. He is also the author of a textbook Astronomy: At Play in the Cosmos. You can also sign up for his free Coursera course "Confronting The Big Questions: Highlights of Modern Astronomy".