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Adam Frank 2018


Professor of Astrophysics
University of Rochester
“Unless nature is perversely biased against civilizations like ours, we’re not the first one to appear.”
— Adam Frank

Adam Frank is an astrophysicist and leading expert on the evolution of stars and planets.

As a self-described “evangelist of science,” Frank is committed to showing others the beauty and power of science. This commitment fuels his work as a scholar, author, and speaker. In his new book, Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth (W.W.Norton, June 2018), Frank poses big questions about alien civilizations, climate change, and what life on other worlds tells us about our own fate.

Adam Frank's Light of the Stars
Light of the Stars:
Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth

(W.W.Norton, June 2018)

“Skillfully written…. With an evenhanded approach to issues like the possibility of extraterrestrial life and the threat posed by climate change, Frank’s simple, effective narrative interlaces biology, astrophysics, population science, and more to lend a cosmic perspective on the fate of life and earth…. Engrossing readers start to finish with persuasive, smooth prose, Frank offers a new take on humanity’s place in this ‘vast and ancient metropolis of stars.’”

—Publishers Weekly

“Engaging... An intriguing account of the ongoing search for alien civilizations whose failure to appear may be a warning for humans to get their act together.”

—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Frank is] knowledgeable, witty, irreverent, provocative, and very entertaining.... [Light of the Stars] offers solid science and lots of fun.”

—Booklist (starred review)
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Adam Frank is also the author of About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang (Free Press, 2011) and The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate (University of California Press, 2009).




William Anders’s photograph of the Earth taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft in 1968.


Earth Will Survive. We May Not.

The New York Times

"We speak of “saving” the Earth as if it were a little bunny in need of help. We show images of gaunt polar bears on melting ice floes to elicit guilt and environmental action. But those images and stories blind us to the reality of this remarkable moment in Earth’s history. Our planet does not need our saving. [...] What Earth’s history does makes clear, however, is that if we don’t take the right kind of action soon the biosphere will simply move on without us, creating new versions of itself in the changing climate we’re generating now."

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Artist's rendition of the exoplanet Kepler-20e


How Do Aliens Solve Climate Change?

The Atlantic

“The universe does many things. It makes galaxies, comets, black holes, neutron stars, and a whole mess more. We’ve lately discovered that it makes a great deal of planets, but it’s not clear whether it regularly makes energy-hungry civilizations, nor is it clear whether such civilizations inevitably drive their planets into climate change. There’s lots of hope riding on our talk about building a sustainable civilization on Earth. But how do we know that’s even possible? Does anyone across the cosmos ever make it?”

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Artist's rendition of the exoplanet Kepler-20e


Was There a Civilization on Earth Before Humans?

The Atlantic

“We’re used to imagining extinct civilizations in terms of the sunken statues and subterranean ruins. These kinds of artifacts of previous societies are fine if you’re only interested in timescales of a few thousands of years. But once you roll the clock back to tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years, things get more complicated. Given that all direct evidence would be long gone after many millions of years, what kinds of evidence might then still exist? Could researchers find clear evidence that an ancient species built a relatively short-lived industrial civilization long before our own?”

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Great Observatories Unique Views of the Milky Way Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/CXC/STScI




  • Alien apocalypse: Can any civilization make it through climate change? (June 2018)
    Earned media press: The Guardian, Popular Science, Newsweek, Scientific American

    Does the universe contain planets with truly sustainable civilizations? Or does every civilization that may have arisen in the cosmos last only a few centuries before it falls to the climate change it triggers? A new mathematical model illustrates how a technologically advanced population and its planet might develop together, putting climate change in a cosmic context.

  • We think we’re the first advanced earthlings—but how do we really know? (April 2018)
    Earned media press: Washington Post, Newsweek, The Daily Mail, Scientific American, NBC News

    Imagine if, many millions of years ago, dinosaurs drove cars through cities of mile-high buildings. A preposterous idea, right? This compelling “thought experiment,” conducted with Gavin Schmidt at NASA, poses the question: How do we really know there weren’t previous industrial civilizations on Earth that rose and fell long before human beings appeared? And, what evidence might future scientists, millions of years from now, detect to determine our own civilization existed?

  • Astrophysicist meets Marvel movie as Doctor Strange science consultant (November 2016)

    The makers of the 2016 Marvel Studios blockbuster Doctor Strange wanted the fantasy film to have scientific substance. For help, they turned to Adam Frank, who discusses his role as a science consultant on the film. In the episode of the University’s Quadcast podcast, Frank discusses his role on the film.

  • Are we alone? Setting some limits to our uniqueness (April 2016)
    Rochester Review

    Odds are, we aren’t the first advanced civilization in the universe. The recent discovery of exoplanets combined with a broader approach to questions of life on other planets, makes it possible to assign a new empirically-valid probability to the odds of other advanced technological civilizations.

he International Space Station continues its orbit around the Earth as Expedition 50 astronauts captured this night image of sparkling cities and a sliver of daylight framing the northern hemisphere.


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Department of Physics and Astronomy

University of Rochester
Rochester, NY
Tel: (585) 275-1717