Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson's picture
Research Scientist in Geology and Geophysics

Title of YYGS ASE Lecture “Can they really do that? Using back of the envelope calculations to debunk Hollywood action movies”


Have you ever wondered whether what you’re seeing or hearing on TV or in the movies is actually possible? Or what is the likelihood that we will be hit by an earth killing asteroid in our lifetimes and is there anything that we can really do about it? It is perhaps no secret that producers of Hollywood movies are more concerned with telling a good story than getting the science right. Movies with a scientific premise that handle the science poorly may inadvertently leave people with a mistaken conception of how the world actually behaves. What many do not realize however, is that in many cases there are some simple calculations that anyone can do to determine if what you are seeing is actually possible. This is what you will learn in this lecture. I will show you  how to make sound quantitative estimates (good guesses) required to get physical data from an action scene and do the appropriate calculation to find a desired quantity. For example, how much force does Hancock exert on the ground to enable him to jump up above the clouds in the following clip? Is it a good or bad representation of what actually happens in the real world? 

Title of YYGS SEE Lecture: “The essential physics of anthropogenic climate change”

Abstract:  This lecture will provide an overview of the physics of human induced climate change or anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  We  will look at which aspects of the climate system are well understood (e.g. forcing by non-condensing greenhouse gasses such as CO2) and which are uncertain (e.g. feedbacks from  clouds),  and  how these are quantified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC).   Topics covered will also include: proxies of global mean temperature, natural variability (e.g. El Nino), global radiative forcing and climate feedbacks. The level of physics required will be about that of a typical high school physics class.

Dr. Frank Robinson is a Lecturer and Research Scientist at Yale University and has degrees from Leeds, Oxford and Hong Kong. While at Yale, he has published over 20 peer reviewed articles in stellar astrophysics, atmospheric convection and simulations of laboratory convection. He has been teaching undergraduate classes for about 10 years across 4 different departments. In addition to teaching physics, geophysics and astronomy, he has created several new classes in Yale College, such as ‘Movie Physics’ and ‘Science and Pseudoscience’. His administrative roles in Yale College include directing the science and QR tutoring program, coordinating science and QR for Freshmen Scholars at Yale (FSY) and the creation of a calculus preparation program for students entering Yale with limited exposure to math. He enjoys advising Freshmen and Sophomores on their academic choices and is currently a fellow of Timothy Dwight College.