Tenure 
February 4 – February 17, 2017
April 22 – May 5, 2017

Adam Frank

Professor of Astrophysics, University of Rochester

Astrophysicist Adam Frank 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 they die. A self-described “evangelist of science,” he is also committed to showing others the beauty and power of science, and exploring the proper context of science in culture. 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 two books. The first, 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.

 

Events

 

ICE Fellows Lecture: Our Fate in the Stars: How a Universe Rich in Alien Worlds Can Help Us Save Our Own
April 27, 2017, 4:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m., Wilder Hall, Room 104

In the face of climate change, humanity is searching for ways to make our global civilization sustainable. But how do we know such a thing is even possible? In other words, how do we know that high-tech, energy-intensive planetary scale civilizations are even something the Universe does? Perhaps no high-tech civilization on anywhere in the Universe lasts more than a few centuries? In this talk, ICE Fellow Adam Frank asks the question of sustainability from the Astrobiological Perspective. He begins with a discussion of what we have learned about planets, climate, and life from explorations of the Earth, other solar system worlds, and exoplanets in the galaxy. From there, he explores issues such as: why it is unlikely that we are the first civilization in cosmic history and why climate change will likely occur on any planet that evolves a technological civilization. Finally, he discusses how this Astrobiological Perspective can change the way we approach climate change and sustainability, lifting discussion above the usual political polarities.
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ICE Fellows Lecture: A House of Many Mansions: What Astrobiology Tells Us About The Anthropocene
February 15, 2017, 4:00 p.m–5:00 p.m., Wilder Hall, Room 104

In this talk, I explore how questions related to developing a sustainable human civilization can be cast in terms of astrobiology. In particular, I show how ongoing astrobiological studies of the coupled relationship between life, planets, and their co-evolution can inform new perspectives and direct new studies in sustainability science. Using the Drake Equation as a vehicle to explore the gamut of astrobiology, I focus on its most important factor for sustainability: the mean lifetime L of an ensemble of species with energy-intensive technology. I cast the problem into the language of dynamical system theory and discuss how astrobiological results usefully inform the creation of dynamical equations, their constraints and initial conditions. In addition, I present a classification scheme for planets based on the degree of biospheric activity in the coupled planetary systems. Finally, I discuss the role of Gaian-type feedbacks in the presence of a global-scale energy-harvesting species.
See the flyer → 
Watch video of the lecture →


Special Astronomy/Astrophysics Seminar: Blowing Away An Exoplanet: Planetary Evaporation and Winds Driven By Stellar Radiation
February 13, 2017, 4:00 p.m–5:00 p.m., Wilder Hall, Room 102

Planets on "hot" orbits (close to their host star) will be exposed to high fluxes of stellar UV and X-ray radiation. The atmospheres of these planets will respond to the incident flux by driving strong mass loss from their upper regions. Such "planetary winds" can have significant effects on the long-term evolution of the planet, including, in the most severe cases, a transition from a Neptune-type world to a rocky planet. I'll present new results from 3-D MHD AMR simulations studying the mass loss process, which explicate new and important features in the dynamics of the winds. I’ll also present synthetic observations from the model and will discuss their relevance to existing and future exoplanet studies.