Author posts

How to read the HR diagram, the most important graph in astrophysics

One single plot of data embodies the most profound thing we know about the stars.

Hertzsprung-Russell diagram: the most important graph in astrophysics

If you truly want to understand modern astrophysics, knowing how to read this graph is essential.

The most important boring idea in the universe

We live in a world dominated by science, but most people don't understand its most essential characteristic: establishing standards of evidence to keep us from getting fooled by our own biases and opinions.

Why condensed matter physicists reject reductionism

Reduction is an approach that has been successful in science but is not itself synonymous with "science."

The future of humanity: can we avert disaster?

Climate change and artificial intelligence pose substantial — and possibly existential — problems for humanity to solve. Can we?

My UFO experience

Like Fox Mulder, people have a lot of strong opinions about UFOs.

How do we know the sun is a star?

Today, it's common knowledge, but it took scientists centuries to figure out.

The impossible cool of Cowboy Bebop

The 1998 hit is making a comeback. Stop what you're doing and watch the original.

Does quantum mechanics favor Buddhist philosophy?

No. But Buddhism and quantum mechanics have much to teach each other.

Are we in an AI summer or AI winter?

Neither. We are entering an AI autumn.

How cell phone data can help redesign cities

With the rise of Big Data, methods used to study the movement of stars or atoms can now reveal the movement of people. This could have important implications for cities.

Reductionism vs. emergence: Are you “nothing but” your atoms?

Reductionism offers a narrow view of the universe that fails to explain reality.

When great video games make great art

Sometimes, moral lessons can be learned from blowing away zombies.

The universe has a Hubble constant problem

Differences in the way that the Hubble constant—which measures the rate of cosmic expansion—are measured have profound implications for the future of cosmology.

If you hate your job, blame the Agricultural Revolution

Hunter-gatherers probably had more spare time than you.

What is life? Why cells and atoms haven’t answered the question.

75 years after Erwin Schrödinger's prescient description of something like DNA, we still don't know the "laws of life."

Can you be scientific and spiritual?

Spirituality can be an uncomfortable word for atheists. But does it deserve the antagonism that it gets?

How “WandaVision” goes beyond peak superhero stories

Even diehard fans are experiencing superhero exhaustion. But it's not impossible to do something original.

If we do find alien life, what kind will it be?

Three lines of evidence point to the idea of complex, multicellular alien life being a wild goose chase. But are we clever enough to know?

Best. Science. Fiction. Show. Ever.

"The Expanse" is the best vision I've ever seen of a space-faring future that may be just a few generations away.

What democracy and science demand: The ‘Smartmatic vs Fox News’ case

The opening lines of Smartmatic's $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News lay bare the culture of denial in the US.

Thinking thresholds: Is science the only source of truth in the world?

Adam Frank, a card-carrying atheist and physics professor, wonders if there might be more to life than pure science.

13.8: Why we’re here

Welcome to the 13.8 relaunch, a new Big Think column led by physicists and friends Adam Frank and Marcelo Gleiser.

Life lessons from the sun

Observing the great gas giant helps me to keep important things in perspective.

The evolution of climate science

Since the late 1800s, what we know has advanced light years ahead.

The joy of finding out

The process of digging into hard questions makes the moment of discovery all the more satisfying.

The weirdness behind quantum supremacy

Superposition, entanglement, qubits, and Google's big announcement.

Settle on Mars to save ourselves?

Colonizing the Red Planet isn't a bad idea in theory. But . . .

Whither wonder?

We're bored, and we've lost our ability to be awestruck and amazed. Let's fix that.

Habitable planet found*

* Well, hold on a minute. Those claims are debatable.

The galactic tree of life

Is it time to take the idea of panspermia more seriously?

The obstinacy of the real

The collapse of Theranos reminds us that in science, facts have the last word.

Alien ethics

When we send messages to the stars, just what are we getting ourselves into?

'One Strange Rock'

Documentary explores astrobiology, astronauts, and the awe of it all.

Flat earth and climate denial: Why?

The resistance movements may be more about identity than science.

Hi, I’m Adam. And I’m looking for aliens.

An astrobiologist joins a like-minded global community in ramping up the search.

No brains in vats

To be is to be embodied.

Breathtaking. Literally.

The realism of video games takes storytelling to another level.

When everyone watches dragons

TV's shared cultural “now" moments embody the intersection of time and tech.

Confessions of a nerd

The Avengers movies have done a marvelous job melding science and story.

How cold is cold?

The Polar Vortex was brutal, but not compared to the rest of the Universe.

Beyond the 'Goldilocks Zone'

The meaning—and range—of “habitable" goes much farther than we once thought.

What we can learn from Ultima Thule

From 4 billion miles away, it says a lot about the meaning of time.

The outer limits?

Technology's rapid advances may slow down, limiting our possibilities.

Evolve or die

Science, power, and wisdom: Does anyone make it?

Nature gone wild

California's raging fires show how climate change can unleash totally new—and deadly—kinds of weather.

How to be a true skeptic

Hint: It's a lot harder than merely being a denier.

Planetary intelligence

What is it, do we have any, and why does it matter?

Complexity is beautiful, too

Binary stars and common envelope evolution illustrate messy but “tasty" science.

The one true world

Nietzsche, physics, and the seduction of an idea.

Climate change and the power of story

To spur action on climate change, we need a story of mythical proportions.

A new home for 13.7 . . . make that 13.8

Adam Frank and Marcelo Gleiser, founders of the popular blog, have landed at ORBITER.