Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life.
In Seattle Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy, when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night. Nye then quit his day engineering day job and made the transition to a night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live.” This is where “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” was born. The show appeared before Saturday Night Live and later on Comedy Central, originating at KING-TV, Seattle’s NBC affiliate.
While working on the Science Guy show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing, and producing. The show won 18 Emmys in five years. In between creating the shows, he wrote five children’s books about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.”
Nye is the host of three currently-running television series. “The 100 Greatest Discoveries” airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of Nye” airs on PBS stations across the country.
Bill’s latest project is hosting a show on Planet Green called “Stuff Happens.” It’s about environmentally responsible choices that consumers can make as they go about their day and their shopping. Also, you’ll see Nye in his good-natured rivalry with his neighbor Ed Begley. They compete to see who can save the most energy and produce the smallest carbon footprint. Nye has 4,000 watts of solar power and a solar-boosted hot water system. There’s also the low water use garden and underground watering system. It’s fun for him; he’s an engineer with an energy conservation hobby.
Nye is currently the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest organization.
David Gregory: You’ve heard the President in drought-stricken California saying that these weather emergencies in effect, are creating the conditions that the government has to act.
Marsha Blackburn: David, I think that what it brings to mind is how we utilize the information that we have, and we all know. And I think that Bill would probably agree with this; neither he nor I are a climate scientist. He is an engineer and an actor, I am a member of Congress, and what we have to do is look at the information that we get from climate scientists. As you said...
Bill Nye: So she did something, which is very common in the climate denier community or whatever you would call it, is to talk about credentials. So, Marsha Blackburn, Representative in the US Congress from Tennessee said well I am a congresswoman and Bill you're just a mechanical engineer so you're not really a climate scientist. And what I would say is what we're talking about in this level of climate science is you don't need to be a full-time climate scientists to understand it.
Furthermore, as far as my credentials everybody, I'm a mechanical engineer. I took a lot of physics. All I did was take physics, physics, physics, physics. And when you're done with formal physics then you take mechanical engineering, which is just applied physics. I get it. I can understand what's going on. We're putting carbon dioxide in the air at a prodigious rate and the world is getting warmer and you can know this by looking at the neutrons in the ice. You can know this by looking at the pollen grains per cubic centimeter in the sediment of ponds. You can know this by looking carefully at the rings on trees during warm seasons, wet seasons, cold seasons, dry seasons, and you can work your way back and figure out that the earth is getting warmer faster than has ever gotten before.
And that's the problem. It's not that the world hasn't had more carbon dioxide, it's not the world hasn't been warmer. The problem is the speed at which things are changing. We are inducing a sixth mass extinction event kind of by accident and we don't want to be the extinctee, if I may coin this noun.
So, I mean as far as Miss Blackburn, sounded like she had been coached on denial bullet points or talking points. And I very much enjoy taking those people on, but meanwhile it breaks my heart because we got work to do. And the fossil fuel industry has really gotten in their ears and it's really troublesome. We're the world's most technically advanced country, or if the U.S. isn't the most technically advanced it's certainly in the top ten. I mean you could say Japan, New Zealand are very sophisticated societies. But the U.S. is where iPhone's are invented, what have you, the Internet; it's still a significant place. And so to have a generation of science students being brought up without awareness of climate change is just a formula for disaster. I mean this is, everybody kinda knows this.
So, I think, as an observer, and I may be wrong as I like to say, you may be right, as an observer it looks like the U.S.'s strength is its weakness. So people came here from all over the world for freedom to think and act the way they wanted, especially freedom of religion. So, we ended up with both the people who framed the Constitution, which is a fabulous thing, and people who asserted that the garden of Eden was in Missouri. And there's no police for that sort of thing. You're allowed to believe whatever you want. It's great. But with that was this, for them, and I emphasize them, the other side, consequence of that was you could also ignore facts of science for a while and now it’s coming to a head.
But man it's really divisive, isn't it? It's really something. That living things change from generation to generation through a process that Darwin and Wallace, Alfred Wallace called natural selection or descent with modification. Those are true things. Those are facts. Tectonic plates move and that's a fact and the world is getting warmer because of human activity. That's a fact. If you had somebody who really strongly believed the earth was flat, you wouldn't have to have that person on a television show with the people who believe the earth is round. [Transcript truncated]
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Dillon Fitton, and Elizabeth Rodd