NPR logo About '13.7: Cosmos And Culture'

About '13.7: Cosmos And Culture'

Welcome to 13.7, an opinion blog set at the intersection of science and culture.

The contributors to this blog are convinced that scientists must engage in the public debate of what science can and cannot do.

Science and its imperatives are deeply embedded in all aspects of human endeavor and human history. Science has shaped culture and, just as importantly, culture has shaped science.

This blog is a platform in which science and the domains of human culture, spirituality and imaginative capacity can speak to each other, addressing the extraordinary and pressing issues we face in this new century.

(P.S. In case you haven't guessed, clicked or Googled yet, the name refers to the estimated age of the universe — 13.7 billion years.)

The contributors are:

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, the future Professor Frank found the keys to the universe sketched out on the covers of his dad's pulp-science-fiction magazines. From astronauts bounding across the jagged frontiers of alien worlds to starships rising to discovery on pillars of fire, the boundless world of possibilities on those covers became the one he was determined to inhabit.

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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 a opportunity to marvel at the world's beauty.

Now a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, Adam Frank studies the processes which shape the formation and death of stars and has become a leading expert on the final stages of evolution for stars like the sun.

Frank is a theoretical/computational astrophysicist and currently heads a successful research group. He holds a joint appointment at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, a Department of Energy Fusion lab. As a post-doc he was awarded the prestigious Hubble Fellowship and in 1997 he was awarded an NSF Career award.

Frank 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. For the last 16 years, Frank has published numerous popular articles on everything from planet formation to the quantum mechanics of honey bee dances (a piece that inspired a major art installation).

He has been a regular contributor to Discover Magazine and Astronomy Magazine (where he serves on the editorial advisory board) and has written for Scientific American, Sky & Telescope, Tricycle and many other publications. In 1999, Frank was awarded an American Astronomical Society prize for his science writing.

In January 2009, his first book, The Constant Fire, was published by the University of California Press. The same year, his work appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009. The Constant Fire was chosen one of SEED magazine's "Best Picks of the Year." His most recent book, published in 2011, is titled About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang.

Frank is a co-founder of 13.7. Read his first post here:
Crossroads Real And Imagined: Why I'm Here.

Marcelo Gleiser is the Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He also directs the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth. He obtained his Ph.D. from King's College London in 1986 and held postdoctoral fellowships at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara and at Fermilab. He is the recipient of a Presidential Faculty Fellows Award from the White House and is a Fellow and General Councilor of the American Physical Society. Author of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, his research focuses on cosmology, field theory, complexity and the origin of life. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, NATO, Department of Energy and the John Templeton Foundation.

Gleiser plays an active role as a public intellectual dedicated to the public understanding of science. He is the author of five books in English, most recently The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher's Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything and The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Knowledge and the Search for Meaning. His cross-disciplinary books explore science's historical and philosophical roots, and how its evolving narrative impacts our culture and worldview. His previous book, A Tear at the Edge of Creation, was published in 12 languages. He participates frequently in TV documentaries and radio programs in the U.S. and abroad, and is a co-founder of the science and culture blog 13.7.

Read Gleiser's first post for 13.7:
Science For A New Millennium

Barbara J. King is emerita professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary. With a long-standing research interest in primate behavior and human evolution, she has studied baboon foraging in Kenya and gorilla and bonobo communication in captive settings in the United States. In recent years, King has focused on studies of animal emotion and issues of animal welfare more broadly, including those related to wildlife, zoo-confined animals, farmed animals and animal companions.

Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for her work in 2002, King has written or edited many books on anthropology and animal behavior. Her latest book, published in 2013, is How Animals Grieve. In 2017, her book Evolving God will be reissued with a detailed new afterword, and her new book Personalities on the Plate: The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat will be published.

King's essay on animal mourning in Scientific American was chosen for inclusion in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014. She writes regularly about books for the TLS and is a frequent guest on national and international radio shows (she has appeared on the Diane Rehm Show and BBC's The Forum) discussing matters of animal cognition, emotion, and welfare.

Shared with her husband, King's cat-rescue work brings her happiness every day.

Tania Lombrozo is an associate professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as an affiliate of the Department of Philosophy and a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences. She directs the Concepts and Cognition Lab, where she and her students study aspects of human cognition at the intersection of philosophy and psychology, including the drive to explain and its relationship to understanding, various aspects of causal and moral reasoning, and all kinds of learning.

Lombrozo is the recipient of numerous awards, including an NSF CAREER award, a McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award in Understanding Human Cognition and a Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformational Early Career Contributions from the Association for Psychological Science. She received bachelors degrees in Philosophy and Symbolic Systems from Stanford University, followed by a PhD in Psychology from Harvard University. She also blogs for Psychology Today.

She joined 13.7: Cosmos And Culture in November 2012.

Alva Noë is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center for New Media. He is also philosopher-in-residence at The Forsythe Company (a leading European contemporary dance company based in Frankfurt and Dresden) and a member of Motion Bank, an interdisciplinary dance research project in Frankfurt.

Noë has written several books; his most recent, Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, was published in 2015. He is also the author of Varieties of Presence, Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons From The Biology of Consciousness, Action in Perception.

He was educated at Columbia, Oxford and Harvard, where he earned a PhD. He has held visiting positions at CNRS lab Institut Jean-Nicod in Paris, the Oxford Center for Neuroscience at Oxford University, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin), the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, and the Department of Logic and the Philosophy of Science at UC Irvine. He was an assistant professor at UC Santa Cruz.

Noë co-created and appeared on stage in What We Know Best, a work performance art, at Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt, Germany, in 2010.

Noë is the father of two sons and a daughter.