There are only a handful of those who can harness both the power of entertainment and the power of science, and one of them is speaking tonight at the Marshall Student Center Ballroom — and it’s not Neil Degrasse Tyson.
Bringing Bill Nye to USF was thanks in part to a survey conducted by the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) during the fall term. Students had indicated they were most interested in USF bringing more celebrities to campus and also indicated a strong interest in science- and technology-related speakers.
Taking the results of the survey into consideration, CSI felt that Nye encompassed the desires of a generation of students who grew up with the popular PBS show “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”
Including topics such as space, environmental issues, climate change and his career in science education and television, Nye’s lecture will be accompanied by a book signing and a question-and-answer session.
A former Boeing 747 engineer, Nye took to television as the goofy scientist of PBS in his popular show that garnered the attention of millions of students. In his iconic bow tie and white lab coat, Nye ruled science classrooms across the country for 100 episodes until the show’s cancellation in 1998.
Although Nye no longer uses his eccentric persona to inspire budding young scientists through television, he has continued a career of science education at speaking engagements, addressing various contemporary issues in science.
A critic of genetically modified foods and vaccines, Nye has been at the center of controversy and is now voicing criticism against what he feels is the public’s neglect to reduce their impact on climate change.
As part of a friendly competition with environmental activist Ed Begley Jr., the two agreed in 2007 to see who could have the lowest carbon footprint. As a result, Nye insists on using public transportation whenever possible and maintains a vegetable garden in his California home.
Following the recent DeflateGate scandal, in which the New England Patriots were accused of using under-inflated footballs to win a game against the Indianapolis Colts in January, Nye took advantage of the eminence of the issue to make a statement on climate change.
In an online video, he conducted an experiment to investigate whether cold weather could explain the deflation of a football, but quickly segued the discussion to climate change.
“While we’re all obsessed with DeflateGate, let’s keep in mind there’s something about which you should give a f—,” he said. “Yes, like Tom Brady, the world is getting hotter and hotter, and you know why? Because we humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
Nye has also been critical of creationists in recent years, and believes spreading of creationism is jeopardizing education and rational thought. As a result of his criticisms, he agreed to debate creationist Ken Ham in 2014 regarding evolution versus creationism.
The debate, held in the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, sold out its 900-seat capacity within minutes of its announcement. The live streaming of the two-hour and 45-minute debate attracted three million viewers and has since been viewed 4.3 million times on YouTube.
During the debate, Nye argued against the validity of the story of Noah’s Ark in the Book of Genesis, stating that it would be physically impossible for a boat to hold the weight the story details.
The debate received polarizing responses with some feeling that giving creationism attention was acknowledging that it had a degree of validity, while others felt it necessary to publicly reject the premises that creationism is based on.
In an effort to grasp the attention of an older audience, Nye starred in “The Eyes of Nye,” a television show that investigated topics ranging from the science behind sex and addiction to nuclear energy and climate change.
Nye is the third speaker of the University Lecture Series this semester and will be one of the main events for USF Week. Sponsored by CSI, Nye’s lecture will cost $52,000 to speak at 7:30 this evening in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom.