As the lights dimmed, the familiar chant began: “BILL, BILL, BILL, BILL!” And then UCSB’s favorite goofball scientist Bill Nye the Science Guy walked out of the ’90s and onto the stage of Campbell Hall last Wednesday night.
It seemed like it was going to be good old Uncle Bill teaching about the wonders of the universe again, as Nye started the night off with slides of the solar system. Despite looking remarkably like Pee-wee Herman, dressed in a blue suit and orange polka dotted bow tie, Nye’s message quickly took on a serious note as he revealed the topic of the night’s lecture: global climate change.
As a self-proclaimed comedian, Nye’s humor prevented the lecture from being just another introduction to environmental studies. He incorporated recent events like the Icelandic volcano eruption and the Gulf of Mexico oil leak into his lecture in order to make it more relevant to the audience. Nye made the issue hit home with UCSB students, who composed most of the audience, by deeming them the “Climate Generation” since they grew up during the biggest breakthroughs concerning climate change.
Nye shared innovative conservation methods like geothermal engineering, bike highways, and bubblizers eagerly, making his passion for helping the environment tangible to the audience. His intense enthusiasm definitely verged on geeky, but he further endeared himself to the audience by playfully acknowledging it.
Although some of the personal anecdotes seemed rehearsed, things definitely got real when Nye told the crowd how old he feels at age 54. In his response to a question about his age, Nye shared that a lot of people he went to school with are now dead. He said how sad it made him that all the days of a person’s lifespan don’t even fill the seats in Dodger Stadium. The audience ruined this moment of candor by inappropriately laughing, but Nye’s sincerity surely got across to some.
Referring to himself affectionately as Uncle Bill, it was easy to instantly reconnect with Nye after the familiarity established from years of seeing him on the TV in your living room. Over the course of the night, this childhood devotion evolved into adult appreciation as he offhandedly mentioned amazing feats like his contribution to probes on Mars and his study under legendary astronomer Carl Sagan at Cornell University.
Since those kids Nye got interested in science on The Science Guy are all grown up, he’s getting these same kids, now in college, interested in halting the negative effects of climate change. He implored the student population to make changes that will aid the environment through their chosen career paths. Nye summed up the purpose of his lecture in one sentence: “To inspire people to protect the Earth so that we will change the world!”
Make sure to check out Nye’s cameo in the video “We Are All Connected” from the recent Symphony of Science series over at www.symphonyofscience.com.