Bill Nye, 59, is a science educator, writer and television personality who was the host of the popular children’s science show “Bill Nye, the Science Guy.” He was born in Washington and graduated from Sidwell Friends.
If your last name hadn’t been Nye, you wouldn’t be known as the Science Guy?
Yes, it has occurred to me, but I played the hand I was dealt. In Denmark, where my ancestors are from, it’s pronounced “knee.” If you go to any Scandinavian country, our name is on everything. It means new. New and improved.
Bill New, the science guy?
Yeah, I know.
I think Nye worked out well. Rhyming is everything.
Well, it’s not everything, but it sure helped me.
When you were growing up in D.C., what were things that got you interested in science?
I always say the bees. I watched bees on azalea bushes. This was a big thing for me. I remember being just fascinated. How can these large animals fly around with such tiny wings? It really was amazing.
What’s the first experiment you remember doing?
The one that really sticks with me is that I got stung by a bee. My mom put ammonia on it, and it felt better. My brother had a chemistry set, and he made ammonia in the palm of my hand with two powders. And I remember thinking, That is the coolest thing. The bee sting was a drag, but I thought that was just fantastic.
What grade does America deserve in science?
Well, this is the world’s most technically advanced society, and we have people denying climate change. These guys are still in deep denial, and future generations, what few of them will be alive, are just going to go, “What were you freaking people doing? What was wrong with you?” So, in a sense, an F. But if it makes you feel any better, you can say a B-minus. We have this top tier [of scientists] in the U.S., the people who graduated from Stanford, from Berkeley, from MIT, Cornell. Those people are still exceptional and really good. But we have this enormous gap between that and just regular software writers
and farmers and people that need to be scientifically literate.
Is Congress friend or enemy to scientists?
Some of each. Whenever you have the head of the Senate science committee writing a book about the conspiracy of climate denial, you have a problem. I’m saying that in a way to be ironic and hilariously funny, but [Senator James] Inhofe is leaving the world worse than he found it. He doesn’t mean to, I understand that, but, nevertheless, he is.
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