Dressed in his unmistakable bow tie, engineer, comedian, and pop culture icon Bill Nye brought his unique blend of science and showmanship to the Mackey Auditorium at CU Boulder last Tuesday. Energy in the room was palpable as Nye took the stage; the former 90’s-children’s television-show-host turned director of the Planetary Society received a standing ovation before he began.
Nye covered a variety of topics from sun dials to Mars exploration during his opening remarks. Personal anecdotes mixed in with his clear message that everyone could “Change the world.” In a manner similar to the quick-cut scenes from his former TV show, Nye jumped from topic to topic within the same theme, cracking jokes along the way.
As Nye discussed the atmospheric compositions of Mars, Venus and Earth the presentation quickly moved into the realm of climate change. Quoting Richard Smalley (Nobel Prize winner and one of the scientists responsible for the discovery of Bucky balls), Nye came to a clear point, “Do more with less.” He was clear that the problems caused by population growth, food scarcity, and climate change could not be solved by taking a classic environmentalist mentality of just “doing less,” rather, advances in technology hold the key.
As he closed, Nye showed an image of Earth as just a speck within a greater field of black space. The humbling image brought up questions of size and place in the universe, the intricacies of the planet and how science will help current and future generations “change the world!”
Following the formal presentation Nye fielded questions from the audience. He was asked about winning the “Humanist of the Year” award, nuclear power, holding a patent on ballet shoes and a variety of other topics. This reporter was fortunate enough to pose the question, “How can scientists and engineers promote new technologies and create change in a political world?” Nye’s response was simple: “Learn to make a compelling argument in writing and vote.” He continued by suggesting involvement in politics and creating appropriate technologies for humanitarian development work.