Bill Nye
reddit AMA - July 2012

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Photo courtesy of Flickr

IAM Bill Nye the Science Guy, AMA

what is your favorite episode of "Bill Nye The Science Guy"? When you get that job as a professional dancer on Broadway. I recommend you never say (or reveal) who your favorite partner is. Plus, that may change with time. And so it is with the Science Guy show. There is something in every episode that I just love.

how do you feel about the CNN interview with Carol Costello? She is fine. I was on the air again with her this morning. I am pretty sure that CNN managers encouraged her to stir things up. She did a little. The main thing for me though is raising awareness of Climate Change. We need to be talking about it— seriously.

would you consider ever doing new episodes of "Bill Nye The Science Guy? Yes, yes. But, it would have to be with the right producers, and it would have to be a less unfavorable contract. I put my heart and soul into that thing; everybody on the crew did. It was a unique time in TV history. It was exciting to be part of it. Let's change the world.

Do you understand that you are one of the biggest motivating factors for me, and a lot of kids who watched you as kids, to continue doing science all the way through middle and highschool? You're so respected by kids and their parents alike. So thank you! I suppose my question would be, do you ever run into people that don't realise just how accomplished you are, and just see you as a TV host? How do you react to that?

First of all, thank you. I often stop and try to get it. I try to grasp the popularity and influence of the Science Guy show, but I'm not sure I do. If I may, I love you guys... If I go into Starbucks, and the people don't know about my show, or my Planetary Society job, or my recent recognition from the Am. Society of Mech. Engineers, the coffee seems to be about the same price. These are all things I feel good about. How else should or would I feel? Hmm...

I vaguely remember reading an interview a long while back when your show was still on where you said you liked model trains? Was that why most episodes of the show had train stuff in them (like the model trains carrying the planets in the solar system one)?

I do love model trains. They carry memories from childhood. But for me, there's more. If we had more and better trains in the U.S., I'm pretty sure we'd be better off. Trains are more efficient than just about any other form of transportation: They roll with much less friction than rubber tires. They do not have to carry surplus motive power (energy/unit of time). And, they run on schedules that can be optimized for energy use and level of service. What's not to love?...

What do you think are the biggest thing's that we can do to improve education in public schools?

Vote for improving schools every chance you get. If you're a parent, get as involved in your kids' education as you can...without troubling the teachers ;-). The longest journey begins with a single step. In my view, we have to support schools, which might be written $upport $chool$$$. That takes taxes, and that takes a majority of us believing in public education.

Bill, you're awesome. What's the best way to articulate that someone needs more information about a subject without sounding like a 'know-it-all'? You're a great spokesperson for science and I'd love to get a glimpse of your thought process before you respond to someone who doesn't know what they're talking about. Thanks!

Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't. I respect that especially. I think I know to whom you refer, certain newscasters (?). When they ask odd questions, it generally means they're asking from their own experience. They have something on their mind(s). I work to respond to that.

Bill, You are what made me fall in love with science at a young age! Thank you for inspiring me! As for a question, What are you concentrating on most right now?

The landing on Mars! It's next Sunday night or Monday morning, depending on your time zone. The Curiosity rover will be lowered onto the surface of Mars by a "sky crane." It's like science fiction; only it's real. The Planetary Society is hosting "Planetfest" events around the world. The central event is at the Pasadena Convention Center. It's goes on all weekend. It's going to be wild! Hope you'll join us! We may make a discovery about martian living things that changes the world(s)!!

Why do you think the United States lags so far behind in the field of Science? What would you recommend (if anything) to get more people interested in Science?

We need a national common purpose, a goal we can achieve together analogous to landing people on the Moon (and returning him safely to Earth). I'd like us to have a completely renewable energy system conceived, designed, built, and used by every one of us in the U.S. We could lead the world in doing more with less. That effort would trickle up into every aspect of our lives, schools included.

Do you have any advice for aspiring science communicators who try to explain science with humor?

Be funny as well as funny looking...

Bill! I don't have a question, I just want you to know you were the one who inspired me to always be curious. I grew up watching your show and you should forever be proud of the young minds you've changed!

Thank you indeed. Let's change the world.

Is/was science a part of your everyday life? Also, I love you.

Science is part of everyone's everyday life. Hard to find anything lovelier than a tree. They grow at right angles to a tangent of the nominal sphere of the Earth. They take water from the ground toward the sky. They are made mostly of carbon... which they take in right out of the air. How cool is that... and so on and on and on and on and on and on and on....

Why do you think there are so few scientists in government?

Governments, especially the U.S. government, is system of laws. Those are written and developed by people drawn to that business. Many scientists are drawn to other intellectual pursuits. As an engineer, I might rather be making things instead of talking about directing people's behavior. One of the things that makes the U.S. so attractive to immigrants is the sophistication and quality of our laws. Much as people like to complain. Our laws in the U.S. are better than than they are in much of the rest of the world.

So much money that he will build his own super collider.

That's not easy. The liquid helium alone is hard to keep around ;-)

Would you ever consider doing it independently, on YouTube or on its own site?

Stay tuned ;-)

What was so unfavorable about the contract? On a more personal note, thank you for doing what you have done to further science. You made me start loving it as a child and I have kept my love of it till today. I would not be half the person I am today without your great program to pique my interest. So again, thank you.

That's very nice. It is I, who must thank you for the kind words and support. Let's change the world.

As a young woman pursuing a degree in STEM (Two, actually - physics and astrophysics), I definitely wonder this, too. Sally Ride was my hero growing up, and now that we've lost her, I'm really wondering who's going to be the hero for the next generation of science-minded young women. In my school's entire college of science, we have only a single female professor (and not a single female professor in the college of engineering), and I'd really, REALLY like to see that change. The cost and time you have to put it to get anywhere in STEM in the US is ENORMOUS, so there has to be some kind of real motivation for today's youth to get into it.

If you become an engineer, you use science to solve problems and make things. Everything you see around you, your computer especially, came out of someone's head. And generally, that person was an engineer. Not bad...

Do you and Neil deGrasse Tyson hang out regularly? If so, what do you talk about? Edit: I said hand instead of hang

Astrophysics, the business of television, baseball, wine, and women.

Where do you get your bow ties from?

When you see one you like, just buy it. If it's good lookin', someone is right behind you ready to snap it up. I find them at Nordstrom (the store and Rack). I have a couple dozen that Beau Ties of Vermont made into bows from straight ties with intriguing patterns. Astronomy2Go is a good source thereof. Right now, I'm diggin' the slimline with arrow points. Ahh...

Hey Bill, big fan! I saw you speak years ago. Two questions: Were you a Stargate fan before your cameo? What are your opinions of the Ancient Astronaut Theory?

I always liked the occasional Stargate. I have approximately No Time for theories about ancient astronauts coming here and building pyramids and runways. What does that say about our ancestors? That they weren't smart enough to make a right angle? That they couldn't draw a straight line, even with a perfect beam of light? Cheer up. Humans are okay.

It seems like teachers (myself included) sometimes try to make science more relevant by saying that it's a great career option, and science outreach programs try to get more people interested in the STEM fields. I've recently started wondering if this is the wrong emphasis. It might make students think that if they DON'T want to be in a science career, they are somehow exempt from understanding it. How can we make people realize that science really is just something you should understand, respect, and appreciate?

Show then tell. Show them your passion. Science is the best ideas humans have had (so far). Let your people see it for themselves. Science Rules.... the universe, and that includes us.

If you could do anything else as a profession that doesn't involve science (not that you should), what would it be?

You stumped me. What profession doesn't involve science? Lumberjack? Plenty of science. Bus driving? Hope you have a sense of momentum, torque, traction, and the passage of time. For me, science rules.

What was up with Activeion? (link)

It is a cool product. It cleans well enough. But, what it really does is kill germs. It's remarkable. The company seems to have been undercapitalized. The units were coming out at $150 a pop. People were reluctant to invest. It's the same technology used in the most popular brand of industrial floor scrubbers. There, the units are big, so the price per is not a hard sell. We'll see what the future holds. I use mine every day.

My sons are 9, 6, and 5. What's a great experiment I can do with them this weekend?

Share in Planetfest, the Curiosity rover landing on Mars. Make your own sky crane. Look at jarosite with a hand lens. Imagine what it would be to find it on Mars. Check out This mission may change the world.

are you going to be a part of the Carl Sagan's Cosmos sequel, 'Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey' at all?

Not so far as I know (that would be big fun). That's Neil's Deil... Deal. It's going to be great.

Hello!! Oh my god, I am so excited you're doing an IAmA. I was a huge fan of your show in my childhood, and I great respect all of your contributions to science over the years. My questions:
  1. Would you ever consider doing guest speaking at various universities? I would personally love it if you could at UC Santa Cruz. I'm planning to major in astrophysics, so I'd love to know if you had any information to present at a lecture! And I know a ton of others who would love it, too!
  2. What do you feel has been the most revolutionary discovery in the past 20 years other than the internet? And, in the same vein, what do you feel may be that next big technology?
  3. Favorite Sci-Fi series? I'm hoping Doctor who.
  4. What do you feel is the future for NASA? Positive? Negative?
  5. What was your favorite personal discovery that you made?
Again, thank you so much for everything you have done. You were amazing in my childhood and continue to be an inspiration in my college career.

I speak at universities all the time. My agent is Betsy Berg. Find her on The accelerating expanding universe still gets my vote. A smart electric power grid could save us from ourselves. Star Trek, the original (I am of that age). NASA is the best investment we make for less than $18 billion. No one else can do what we'll witness Sunday next when we land on Mars. Check out When I first saw craters on the Moon through a telescope... that was something...

Hey Bill! - What do you do in your free time these days?

Ride my bike Swing dance Devise ways to grow more food in my garden and save energy in my house. Life's pretty gooood.

How do we preprare for a "mass extinction" event coming from Mt. St. Helens? Would humans survive?

Mt St Helens isn't going to kill many more people in the near future. If you like to worry about things, consider a 150 meter asteroid with our name on it. Yikes! It's the reason the Planetary Society is working with the B612 Foundation to assay and deflect an asteroid some day.

What changes would you make towards teaching science, math and technology curriculum?

We'd start earlier with algebra. Let's have symbols for numbers early, early in school. That will enhance everyone's appreciation of science. It should be an inexpensive thing to pull off. Stay tuned.

(This question was deleted by the user)

I did the Eyes of Nye. Then the Seattle PBS station went through some unsettling times. I did the Greatest Discoveries and Greatest Inventions. I did Stuff Happens (Planet Green became a sort of collection of cooking shows). Now there are several derivative shows. Heck, there's a whole Science Channel now. It would have to be the right deal. I miss being on television some days. Doing a show of the quality of the Science Guy show needs the right crew with the right focus. It is physically difficult, but big fun. Stay tuned.

Hey Mr. Bill Nye! I grew up with your show as a kid and I just wanted to thank you for being one of the factors that instilled curiosity in me as a child. That curiosity eventually led me onto the path I am today(3 years into my Biochemistry B.S. degree). So basically this is just a personal thank you for being Bill Nye the Science Guy!

Right on! Change the world.

Do you ever miss Almost Live? Do you have any funny stories from the show?

The Almost Live guys are still good friends. Ross and I stay in touch. I spoke with Steve Wilson this morning. Bob Nelson may be the funniest writer in history. Sensors indicate that Pat Cashman is the funniest announcer, who has ever lived. I remember the floor director starting to laugh when I played Og Brockaw on the Hunter Gatherer Report. I could barely deliver the lines. Bo Arg ran off a cliff to escape a swarm of bees, "The god of gravity sucked him down and made him flat," for example. Nancy Guppy's housewife character said to Pat Cashman's J.T. Plumber that she "couldn't help but notice is caulk." I can't even type; it was so funny...

Do you have your theme song as your ring tone? You should. The theme song

Love that song: Science Rules

Third. I'm sure that a significant majority of us here are inquisitive in part to people like you, who showed us that there is virtue in the pursuit of knowledge.

That's just cool everyone. Thank you.

But what was so unfavorable about the contract? Sorry for being redundant, but I would like to know.

In 20 years Jim & Erren, and I (the producers) have still not "earned out." This is to say, according to the accountant at the legal entity involved, we still haven't shown a profit. I am of course open-minded, but skeptical. It's the way of the world.

I think the interview was as you said, something stirred up to generate controversy on television. That's all most television is about anymore. Do I think it was done in the appropriate manner?- No, but I have a ton of respect for you for keeping your cool and presenting the facts as they are. I want to thank you for being a huge inspiration to me as a kid, and through today. Also, as a side note, do you have all of your Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes available for download legally somewhere? I'd love to have copies to show my kids when I eventually have some on a format that's going to last.

You can download 33 of them from iTunes. "They" are working on setting up the remaining 67 episodes. A couple days ago, I hoped to download Space Exploration, but it's not there yet. It's coming along with the others... Stay tuned.

That's how I found out that inertia was a property of matter. I still don't understand it, but I do know it.

Inertia is word embraced by Isaac Newton himself. It's whatever is about matter, about stuff, that gives it mass. Next time you're in space with a bathroom scale, look down... wait, look in the direction of the scale. It will read zero, yet you know that you still have a feature or property that makes you harder to push around than the scale itself, but easier to push around than your Millennium Falcon. That's inertia. Give it some mull, hmmm...

Bill, I just wanted to say that I heard your speech at Cornell University almost...a year ago now. I thought it was really inspiring and I love the username. Anyway, my question is about the politics of science and is in two parts. Primarily, why do you think there is so much of a "culture of ignorance" in America, and how do you think we can combat that on a national scale, i.e. Moon landing. I know you've said renewable resources but is there perhaps something more visceral. The moon landing had a very defined beginning and foreseeable end, renewable resource energy has neither since we don't know what a really good source of energy will become or what it will look like. That kind of time commitment has, historically, been lost on the electorate. Secondly, science is in and of itself political in nature, who gets grants (or contracts...ha) depends on whose pockets are the deepest and thereby research comes to the surface not as a result of ability or desire but of financial support. For example Exxon and Shell fund research to mitigate claims of damage done to the environment by oil, etc. The government funds (or funded) research into corn-ethanol that captivated the national attention for thirty seconds. Are you concerned that if a political shift in power takes, say a fiscal conservative swing, and decides to downsize the NIH and the NSF that it would have a profound effect by increasing private influence (loaded question) and is there anything we can do to limit the influence of "politics" in research. Lastly, on an interview with fox you said you were glad we were done with the shuttle. Why? and what are your unadulterated feelings about Fox/Bill O'Reilly? I know I added a question, but I just wanted to say that my going into biology and then medical school is in part because of you. Cheers.

We have to chip away. Adults are hard to influence once their brains have formed a belief. I hope to foster a generation of people, who embrace the process of science. We'll see. Science is political, because it's done by humans. We all have to be part of the process in the public debates. Vote. The space shuttle cost around $1.5 billion a flight. It had to be retired before those resources could be redirected to more productive programs. We're at a cross roads in space exploration. Stay tuned, and of course. Try Planetfest next weekend!

Bill, I was really sorry to hear about your death (link) How did this effect your career?

I thanked them for killing me. I mean come on, C2H4O2 + NaHCO3 produces CO2. It's heavier than air. It was a joke people. O my, that's some nerd comedy right there. I guess it was ultimately good for my career... at least so far ;-)

Just wanted to say thanks for coming to NewSpace Bill. What is your favorite space event ever?

My favorite space event is yet to come. Next weekend, when we land on Mars. Did I mention Planetfest? ;-)

Ages ago, in the mid 90s, I sat in front of you at an M's game (M's vs. Orioles, 3rd base side and 4 or 5 rows up, if I recall correctly). I knew you were behind me and I was terribly excited that I was sitting so close to someone I respected very much (for the science and Almost Live!)! I didn't want to bug you AT ALL, but I did keep sneaking peeks behind me to make sure I wasn't seeing things. At one point, you offered me a peanut, which I passed on (I was so nervous!!). After the game ended, I mustered up the courage to have you sign my ticket stub: "Brandie: Stay in school! Bill Nye" - I still have it. I can honestly say that was one of the biggest highlights of my youth! That all being said, I have ALWAYS felt guilty for asking you for the autograph. Why? Because I honestly think you were very incognito and low-key, and by me asking, it brought you some unwanted attention. You didn't vocalize your displeasure, but I felt like I could see it in your body language that you were a tad bit miffed. Please accept my apologies, but know that you absolutely made my decade. So my question: In light of everything you've seen and done in your life, what personal experience truly made you pause and maybe say to yourself "that was amazing!"?

Stories like yours. No kidding, that's lovely. Thank you, and thank you all for your wonderful words. It's after 16:30 here in the Pacific Time Zone. I've got to fly. I'll be back my O my, Bill Nye the Science Guy.

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