Bill Nye: Why We Explore

Television Host and Science Educator

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.

 

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Bill Nye: If you stop exploring, and it kind of doesn’t matter what it is—your back yard, the bottom of the ocean, species that live in the canopy of rainforests that are undiscovered, some insect or somebody, some amazing fern that doesn’t—epiphyte that doesn’t need to have contact with the ground—, if you stop looking for those, let alone on Mars and other worlds and other stars, if you stop exploring, what does that say about you?  It says okay, I’ll stay home, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.  I tell you, if you take that attitude, you’re not going to move forward as a species; and especially, talking about economic times, your country’s economy will fall behind.

Space exploration stimulates the economy.  Space exploration is what I like to call “trickle-up investment.”  When you get a bunch of well-educated people running around in society, it raises the level of intellectual achievement for everybody.  So for me, the search for extraterrestrial life is part of space exploration and, therefore, something you just do.  

Copernicus goes, “The sun is the center, not the earth.”  Everybody’s like “What?  Dude!”  “Yeah.  The earth goes around the sun.”  “Oh, now everything adds up.  Now the ancient observations—now it all lines up.”  Galileo says, “Hey, you know, we’re not the only planet with a moon.”  “Oh, we’re going to have to put you in prison.  I’m sorry, we’re going to have to keep you in prison if you’re going to insist.”  “No, but look, it’s not me.”  So if we found evidence of life elsewhere, it would humble us in the same way.  

So there are many people that are troubled by this uncertainty, by this inability to know, and they want to have all the answers and have it all settled.  But that’s not the nature of nature.  And, furthermore, it’s especially not the nature of science.  Science is this process where we keep making discoveries in a disciplined fashion, and in general, the more discoveries you make, the more you realize you don’t know what’s going on, the more you realize you don’t know.  So not knowing the next physics, whatever is causing the stars to accelerate away from each other, not knowing really where gravity comes from, not knowing the future, these are all very troubling to some people.  But to us in science, it’s exciting, it’s always exciting.  You’re always going to find something, especially in space.

Directed / Produced by 
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd


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