Andrew Fraknoi is the Chair of the Astronomy Program at Foothill College near San Francisco. In 2007, he was selected as Professor of the Year for the state of California by the Carnegie Endowment for Higher Education. For 14 years, Fraknoi served as the Executive Director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and was editor of its popular level magazine, Mercury, and its newsletter for teachers, The Universe in the Classroom. He has edited two collections of science articles and science fiction stories for Bantam Books, and is the lead author of Voyages through the Universe, one of the leading astronomy textbooks in the world, and also the children’s book Disney’s Wonderful World of Space. Fraknoi serves on the Board of Trustees of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, and is also a Fellow of the Committee for the Skeptical Inquiry, specializing in debunking astrology. He has received the Annenberg Foundation Prize of the American Astronomical Society (the highest honor in the field of astronomy education), as well as the Klumpke-Roberts Prize of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (given for a lifetime of contributions to popularizing astronomy) and the Gemant Prize of the American Institute of Physics.
In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Andrew Fraknoi explains the history of the atoms in our bodies, and how we are literally made of “star stuff.” He details how scientists know the history of these atoms, and explores the implications of this “simple but profound fact,” and how some people derive mystical meaning from it, while others find it humbling. He talks about the compatibility of religion with astronomy, and the proper role of skepticism in the science classroom. He describes current threats to science education. And he makes a case for popularizing science and astronomy, and how this benefits society.