Television host Bill Nye the Science Guy was known in the 90s for his quirky humor, fun science experiments, and his ability to make STEM learning fun and engaging. Nye is the subject of the new documentary titled “Bill Nye: Science Guy” in which he opens up about who he is and what drives him now. Correspondent Maddie Orton sat down with Bill Nye and filmmaker Jason Saltzberg to discuss.
Meet the one and only Bill Nye the Science Guy
Television host Bill Nye the Science Guy was known in the '90s for his quirky humor, fun science experiments and his ability to make STEM learning fun and engaging.
Nye is the subject of the new documentary titled 'Bill Nye: Science Guy' in which he opens up about who he is and what drives him now.
Correspondent Maddie Horton sat down with Bill Nye and filmmaker Jason Sussberg to discuss.
This new documentary focuses a lot on who you are as a person and also what you're focusing on right now.
What made you want to do the documentary?
Well, my agent, Nick, thought this would be cool because he was interested in it because, like Jason and David and Kate, he grew up watching the 'Science Guy' show.
You know, David and I grew up watching the show, and, you know, in no small part, it was a huge influence on our decision to become science documentary filmmakers.
You know, the show was so interesting.
It had this weird language.
It was like 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' but educational, and so, yeah, it seemed like the right topic, and it was the right time because Bill had just done the debate in Kentucky.
You mentioned the Kentucky debate.
Let's talk about that a little bit.
Much of the film focuses on your speaking with, I guess, skeptics of evolution and skeptics of climate change.
What brought you to do the debate at the creationism museum?
Well, the guy wrote to me, and I didn't really know who he was, I admit, and I know that Bill Maher had exposed him a little bit in his movie, and I thought...I still think this is a good opportunity to show the world how this entity, these creationists... And you used the word skeptics.
They're deniers of science.
I mean, I'm a big skeptic.
I'm a big critical-thinking proponent of rationality, reason and all that, but these are people that ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence, and I believed, and I still believe, that by putting it on the Internet, people would see what these guys are up to, and I hope not enable them to use tax dollars to miseducate kids.
What are your concerns as far as children in science education as far as this is concerned?
Well, the biggest problem facing humankind is climate change.
I say all the time, when I was a kid, there were three billion people in the world, but now there are 7.4 billion people in the world.
In fact, when we were making the movie, there were 7.3 billion people.
Now there's 7.4, and so this enormous number of people trying to breathe and burn the Earth's atmosphere is causing the Earth's climate to change very fast.
Most of us live on sea coasts, and most of us will be affected by this.
You visited Greenland to look into the science and the research behind climate-change studies.
Tell me a little bit about how they are really looking into that.
For years, I'd been using ice cores, pictures from the ice-core lab, pictures colleagues would send, academic colleagues would send me, the famous hockey-stick graph in my lectures, but I had never been to the land of ice cores, but Jason and David and Kate somehow schmoozed somebody somewhere, and we went to Greenland and saw the evidence with our own eyes.
And so what is the evidence?
What are these ice cores?
Well, I mean, I mean, that's definitely a question for Bill, but what they're able to do when they drill the ice core is they're able to crush the ice and then take a reading of the atmosphere at the time, so, you know, Bill refers to it as a time machine.
You can actually find the atmosphere going back tens of thousands of years, and you can actually find the correlation between CO2 and temperature with great accuracy.
By analogy, the ice down deep or the rocks down deep are older than the rocks and the ice on top.
And so that's it.
You drill down into the ice.
You get this cylinder of ice about yea, and you look at the bubbles very carefully, and you put them in your mass spectrometer that you have, and you figure out what the ancient atmosphere was made of.
Science education has been a huge part of your life and your career.
I thought it was particularly interesting that you said something changes in a child's science-education abilities when they're about 10, right?
Ten is the oldest you can be to get... And I say this.
This isn't my research, but when we did the 'Science Guy' show over 20 years ago, we had very compelling research that 10 years old is about as old as you can be to get the so-called lifelong passion for science.
What gives you hope about science education now?
Oh, I think things are changing.
I think I should take full credit.
[ Laughs ] It's all you.
No, it's just that here is the example that I am so fond of -- 'The Big Bang Theory' and now a spin-off show, 'Sheldon'...
'Big Bang Theory' was the most popular show on television, not the most popular sitcom, the most popular show, and it celebrates these nerdy people interacting, who are scientists and engineers interacting, and that right there is evidence that things are changing.
Then if I said to you STEM, you know exactly what that means, right?
Science, technology, engineering and math...
...and because it's just this acronym is just around all the time, STEM, STEM, STEM, and that's good.
I think things are changing.
One of the particularly cool things about the film, I think, for people who are science lovers is it's not just Bill Nye the Science Guy, but you also have clips of Carl Sagan, and you have a moment of you interacting with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Neil is a good friend.
Man, I spend a lot of time with Neil.
I think it must be so cool, especially you're a science lover, science documentary, and what was that like?
It was really exciting because, you know, Bill doesn't exist in a vacuum.
As we did the research, we realized that there... You know, his mentor, who was his old college professor, Carl Sagan, influenced both Bill and Neil, and, you know, getting into that history felt really pertinent to what Bill is currently doing, which is hopefully inspiring a new generation to love science the way that he learned to love science from Carl Sagan.
It's just an exciting time.
You know, when you're in love, you want to tell the world, as we say.
What are your hopes for the documentary?
Well, that it saves the world.
No big thing.
That people watch it, realize climate change a big problem, decide to produce all the electricity in the world renewably and make it reliable, have clean water for everyone on Earth and access to the Internet for everyone on Earth so we raise the standard of living of women and girls and manage the Earth's environment globally and have the human population manageably reduce over the next century and a half for a better quality of life for everyone.
We'll have to get on that.
Yeah, the film is what, an hour and 10 minutes?
We can do that.
That should be enough.
That should do it. Yeah.
That's fine. Bill, Jason, thank you for being here.
Thank you, Maddie.
Thanks a lot.