Robin Jordan, Ph.D.

Science and Nature

Robin Jordan, Ph.D., graduated from the University of Sheffield, England in 1967 with B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics. After three years as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ames Laboratory, Iowa State University, he joined the University of Birmingham, England. He joined FAU as a Professor of Physics in 1989. In 1994, he was selected by the student body as the Distinguished Teacher of the Year; in 1998, he was selected as the FAU Researcher of the Year; in 1999, he received an Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award; and, in 2003, he was selected as one of the Master Teachers in the FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. Dr. Jordan retired from FAU in 2009 but was awarded the rank of Emeritus Professor and still teaches part-time.

I aim to provide insightful answers to six questions that we all wonder about, but we have either little time to investigate them fully or simply think they are too difficult for us to solve. In providing answers to these questions, I will endeavor to use very little math!

Six Lectures
1. How old is the Earth? Early civilizations had their own answers to this question. But our story really begins in the middle of the 17th century when the Creation was dated to 4004 BCE, putting the Earth’s current age as a little over 6,000 years. Today’s best estimate is about 4.6 billion years. What developments over the past 360 years caused the age to be revised?
2. How much does the Earth weigh? The person who “weighed the Earth” was Henry Cavendish in 1798. To be strictly pedantic, he measured the density of the Earth from which the mass can be determined. How did he find the density of the Earth and what were the other scientific achievements of this relatively little known man?
3. Can a mother be younger than her daughter? Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity produces a number of curious paradoxes and unusual conclusions. I will give an overview of some of the more bizarre scenarios and, of course, provide the answer to the title of the lecture!
4. Why do we need quantum mechanics? A common misconception is that electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom rather like the planets orbit the Sun. However, that is not the case; a completely different approach, quantum mechanics, is required. I will highlight some of the results of quantum mechanics, many of which are totally counter-intuitive.
5. How will the universe come to an end? Basically, there are two possible scenarios; either the universe will continue its present expansion, or the current expansion will be reversed and the universe will begin to contract. Both scenarios spell doom! I will look at the different constituents of the universe that will have an influence on the final outcome.
6. Why do musical instruments sound different from each other? Why is it that most people can tell the difference between musical instruments even when they are playing the same note? I will explain the scientific reasons why that is the case.

Fall 2014 Class Files