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Science offers hope during dark times

January 21, 2021
vial of COVI-19 vaccineThe rapid development of vaccines for COVID-19 is an example of the scientific breakthroughs from 2020 to be celebrated. “Even as it faced profound challenges, American science delivered,” says Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

As the United States enters a new chapter with a new presidential administration, astrophysicist Adam Frank, the Helen F. and Fred H. Gowen Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rochester, reflects on what he calls this past year’s “dark times” amidst a raging COVID-19 pandemic and a divisive political climate.

One bright spot was the endurance of science.

“Throughout all our turmoil, American science has not wavered,” Frank writes in a piece for NBC News. “Instead, American science in all its forms—the institutions, individuals and culture—has not only remained solid through the crises, but also provided us a path out of the darkness.”

Frank notes several striking examples of scientific breakthroughs in 2020: while vaccines usually take decades to develop, researchers worked tirelessly and used cutting-edge genetic science to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine in fewer than 12 months; artificial intelligent techniques based on Google’s DeepMind pinpointed breast cancer cells with higher accuracy than doctors could; and the privately owned company SpaceX safely launched American astronauts into space.

These achievements show that greatness is possible, Frank writes, “when we work together and hold fast to the truth.”

Frank’s research is in the general area of theoretical astrophysics, and in particular, the hydrodynamic and magneto-hydrodynamic evolution of matter ejected from stars. A self-described “evangelist of science,” Frank has also been awarded several prestigious honors for his efforts to communicate about science. His most recent book, Light of the Stars (W.W. Norton, 2018) was awarded the 2019 Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science.

Read the full article online.

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Category: Voices & Opinion