Bill Nye calls it his ‘mission in life’ to help people filter out false information
Say Bill Nye’s name, someone might be screaming “science guy”, and a millennial nearby will unlock a memory. They sit in a classroom as their teacher unrolls a cart containing an obsolete television. The lights go out, the room cools. They’re attached to what looks like the top of all science videos.
An unforgettable theme song, âBill, Bill, Billâ¦â begins to ring in their ears. Dressed in a sleek bow tie, the former mechanical engineer appears onscreen with a gooey experiment to explain how science permeates everything.
But since childhood, not all of the kids who grew up on the show – myself included – have had time to think about volcanoes, comets, and electric currents. We are too busy worrying about taxes, deadlines and politics.
The world has progressed since then as well. Space exploration is open to mega-rich and there is talk of installing Mars and establishing a scientific base on the moon. theis in full force and, for the past two years, a deadly pandemic has put the world at risk.
But in a new MasterClass, over 13 lessons, Nye shares a timely reminder: science is always all over.
âLook around in the room you are in,â he said over the phone in the same enthusiastic tone as Bill Nye, The Science Guy episodes. “Every shape you can see came out of someone’s head. Someone thought about it.” This someone, he said, was probably an engineer trained in science.
For Nye, science isn’t just great, it’s a way to look at the world. âIt’s about philosophy,â Nye said in a much more serious tone. “This is a way of thinking.”
The beginning will meet the end
If there’s one thing I learned from Nye, it’s that the scientific method isn’t just for science.
The format looks like this: you notice a phenomenon, come up with a hypothesis to explain why it happens, design an experiment to test that hypothesis, run the experiment, and see how the results add up. Then you start over to strengthen your evidence.
âI asked people, ‘When you paint a wall, does the paint dry from top to bottom or from bottom to top? People tell me, well, what is it? And I say, try it. Don’t take my word for it, give it a try. You can find out. “
After several tries, if your hypothesis turns out to be wrong, you can make a new one. Getting it wrong is not a bad thing, Nye insists, but a productive step towards the truth – and starting any process is key to fostering a better outcome.
âWe all want to hurry; we all just want to start, âhe said of anyone painting the walls in a room. “But I do claim that it is very helpful to figure out how much paint you will need, what color it will really be, what size and style of brush you will need and take all the time to cover the furniture and the floor and everything else before you start painting. “
When it comes to scientific subjects, scientists have applied this method in infinitely great detail over many, many years. As such, Nye distinguishes between issues that we should personally study from the bottom up and those that we should trust the experts on.
A global spotlight on science
At the heart of public debate at the moment are two unmistakably scientific topics: the global pandemic and the climate crisis. But in an age of disinformation, these discussions don’t always correspond to scientific truth.
“We have a huge number of people here in the world’s most technically advanced society who don’t want to get vaccinated because they think their research online is just as valid as the scientific research conducted by health professionals, âNye said. calling it his “mission in life” to help people filter out false information from the internet.
To date, more than 5 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19, but according to Our World In Data, only 57% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the life-saving vaccine. Among other things, the low numbers are the result of hesitation and insufficient supply, especially in low-income countries.
“We would be done with this pandemic if our society had recognized the importance of it and not only had been vaccinated, but had exported vaccines to the developing world so that we did not have the omicron variant, as a ‘example,’ Nye said.
He stressed that right now is the perfect time to value the work of scientists. âPeople are afraid,â he said. “And this is where knowledge is of great value – this is how you can overcome fear.”
Climate change, on the other hand, is becoming more and more worrying every day. Having already severely affected developing regions like Bangladesh and threatening vast swathes of richer countries like the United States, it is responsible for an increase in forest fires, cyclones, droughts, extinction of animals and many other forms of devastation.
In Climates, a Season 3 episode of Bill Nye, the Science Guy, Nye uses a replica of the Earth and a radiator to demonstrate global warming. âThe globe is getting too hot,â he said. “So we have to be careful.”
Twenty-six years and several fractions of a degree later – alongside the conclusion of the COP26 conference, where government officials intended to come up with a plan to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming – Nye a stated that the leaders “were unable or unwilling to propose and adhere to the extraordinary measures that we almost certainly need to take.”
In a nod to the 2006 documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, which follows Al Gore’s quest to educate the public about climate change, Nye suggests that the representatives are expressing a limited reaction because he is simply too “inconvenient” to stop burning coal, for example, even though science shows burning coal could contribute to the erosion of Earth’s atmosphere.
Still, Nye gave off an air of familiar optimism, paralleling the vibe of his MasterClass lessons. âThe world is slowly changing,â he said, âand I’m excited about the future because young people are not going to continue like this.â
Science still reigns
Enjoying the measure, says Nye, is just as important as distilling a conclusion; a great understanding of basic science can help us on a smaller scale, even by chance.
âWe each have the ancestors who took the risk of crossing the hill into the unknown valley, just to see what was there – and made an amazing discovery,â he said.
Nye calls the cost of efforts like space exploration “tiny” compared to the benefits they will one day bring us. Whether it’s finding life on another world, which he says will change our world, or something relatively simpler, “basic research is almost priceless.”
âThere is a hexagonal storm over Saturn’s north pole – a six-sided storm,â Nye pointed out. “Do you know why it has six sides and it’s at the north pole of Saturn? Nobody knows. But once this is understood, I guarantee you it will inform our understanding of weather on Earth.”
One reservation he has is with the concept of creating a civilization on Mars, calling it “much harder than it sounds – there is no air, there is no food. “. In particular, he compares a colony on the Red Planet to life in Antarctica. Although humans have sailed all over the world for centuries, he said, no one has set up a camp for long-term living in Antarctica.
“I’m open-minded, but Mars is really cold. I don’t think you want to settle down. Have a science base where they go out in their spacesuits looking for stuff, which I’m on board with.”
In keeping with his dreams of a moon base, Nye’s love and curiosity for science is as powerful as it was when I watched his show in science class. However, while he sprinkled his statements with fascinating facts – like how cool it is that our Zoom call is powered by a multitude of transistors – he acknowledged that over time, “you get tired.”
“You have to get to work, you have to respect the writing deadline, you have to go to the grocery store … you don’t take the time to assimilate and stay curious. But I would say if this is really what it is. that’s going on, fight that. “