What the Planetary Society Does
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.
Bill Nye: The Planetary Society is the world’s largest non-governmental space interest organization, and for many years—over 30, 31 years—we’ve supported the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The Planetary Society is the only organization now that does optical searches, so we have a telescope that looks, if you will, for laser signals from other civilizations, and you might say that sounds crazy. We support various radio telescopes including the only one in the southern hemisphere that listens for radio signals from other civilizations. And you say, well, you haven’t heard one. That’s right. But if we did, it would change the world.
So it’s a very, very high risk thing. There’s no guarantee, absolutely no guarantee of success, but I can assure you that we will never hear a signal if we don’t listen. So that’s why we pursue this kooky thing. So there’s people—35,000 people around the world—that think this is cool, and they send us a little bit of money, and we keep working. So you don’t do the Apollo Moon Program on this thing. You don’t fight another cold war and spend four percent of the gross national product. It’s just something you keep going all the time.
As a society, a developed society with the intellectual capacity and treasure to do a search, you’ve just got to search. I mean, you got to keep it going in the background in the hopes that one day you will make contact with something, you will get a signal. You know, we inadvertently broadcast our television signals into space all day, all night, all the time. Perhaps there is another civilization doing the same thing, not intentionally trying to get hold of us but sending out signals. It’s not crazy.
When are we going to receive the signal? It could be right now. It could be . . . an Arecibo telescope could be receiving it right now, and here we are squandering our time doing this idle chat. No. But it may be years, it could be any moment we detect the signal. So it is reasonable that if there is another society that has this capability and is broadcasting all the time in the same way we are, we just have to show up at the right moment. The signal is out there, we just have to be ready for it.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
The Planetary Society is the only organization now that does optical searches, so we have a telescope that looks, if you will, for laser signals from other civilizations.
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