“With your brains, my friends, you can change the world.”
The charismatic Bill Nye the Science Guy inspired ‘Berg students Wednesday to celebrate the joy of scientific discovery on their way to changing the world. Nye was on campus as the keynote speaker for the HYPE Program. He entertained us, he made us wonder and he made us think.
“We are living in extraordinary times,” he told the students. “We are the world’s most technologically advanced society, yet we face a potential crisis with climate change.”
Despite a chorus of “climate change deniers,” some of whom are in powerful political positions, the warming of the Earth at an alarming speed is as much a challenge as an opportunity for today’s generation to create a cleaner, healthier, smarter, more efficient and happier world.
“People my age and my ancestors caused this problem, and now, you’re going to have to deal with it. … Climate change is serious business. We have to resolve it, but it’s not the only thing we have to do.”
Nye referenced his U.S. Navy veteran parents who, like many members of “the greatest generation,” simply jumped in and got involved in resolving the world’s problems. That’s what everyone did in the 1940s. His grandfather, he said, rode into World War I on a horse. But in World War II 20 years later, “Nobody went into battle on a horse.”
The current generation has to be ready to embrace change in the same way, he said. “Everything changed in 20 years. So I want you guys to change everything by the time you are the captains of industry.”
The way to get there is to take action to create a better future through scientific curiosity. “You are not Generation X. You are not Generation Y. I want you to be Generation S – for science,” he said.
Nye suggested three areas of focus toward a better future: clean water for everyone, renewable electricity resources and internet access for the entire world.
“You guys are gonna get this done,” he said. “You’ve gotta be optimistic about the future. You’ve gotta believe you can change things.”
Following the keynote, Nye signed copies of his new book, “Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.” He also met informally with a group of about 40 students to answer questions about a range of topics – from the origin of his bow tie to what’s on his bucket list. Here’s a sampling of that exchange:
Q: What’s your favorite field of science?
Bill Nye: "Physics. Genetics is also really cool."
Q: What’s the story behind the bow tie?
Bill Nye: “When I was a junior in high school, the boys were waiters at a girls’ athletic banquet. I thought, “Just for a second, girls are going to have to talk to me.’ If you’re going to wait tables, you should dress like a waiter. And bow ties don’t fall into a plate of food.”
Early in his stand-up comedy career, he wore them as a way to set himself apart. They’ve been part of his style ever since and has a collection of about 500.
“They don’t ever wear out. Now, it’s just a thing. I can’t stop.”
Q: Have you ever failed at anything?
Bill Nye: “Are you kidding me? I used to do stand-up comedy. I’ve failed countless times.”
Q: What technological advancement are you excited about?
Bill Nye: “I’m excited for self-driving cars. Imagine cities with no traffic jams and no parked cars. WHOA! That could be really cool. It should happen in your lifetime. Let’s go!”
Q: Do you think people will ever live on Mars?
Bill Nye: “A science colony there, yes. Living there, no. It’s really cold, there’s nothing to eat and you can’t breathe.”
Q: What’s on your bucket list?
Bill Nye: "Learning to surf really well."
Q: Who inspires you?
Bill Nye: “I had a great sixth-grade teacher. I had a great biology teacher. But my physics teacher, Mr. Lang … he really hooked me.”