Auburn’s University Program Council tapped into the nostalgia of students with an event all 90’s babies can relate to. UPC brought Bill Nye “The Science Guy” to campus on Nov. 1 to spread the word about changing the world with science.
Nye is a scientist, engineer, comedian, author, inventor, pop icon and a man with a mission. His mission is to help people understand and appreciate science that makes the world work.
Nye has made science entertaining and accessible for almost 20 years with his television show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” which aired the first of its 100 episodes in 1993.
When UPC announced that Nye would be speaking on campus, students showed an overwhelming response and tickets sold out quickly. Ricky Scheuerle, Director of Speakers and Comedians, said that UPC expected a lot of interested in the event, but “didn’t expect the 3,500 person turnout that [they] got.”
The successful turnout was more surprising to some committee members than to others. “Some factions of our planning committee felt like the event was going to be huge, while others just expected a typical turnout the size of Bo Burnham a couple years back,” Scheuerle said.
“Everyone likes Bill Nye and we knew that,” Scheuerle said. “That is why we booked him.”
Nye was greeted with a standing ovation as he ran out on stage, looking sharp in a black suit and red bow tie. He immediately made the crowd laugh by telling jokes and playing pranks. He set up his Power Point presentation and faked electrocution in the process. “Bill Nye is a great guy,” said Scheuerle. “He is just as funny in person as he [was] on his television show.”
Nye began the lecture with the roots of his interest in math and science. Nye’s mother was recruited by the United States Navy to be a cryptographer and spent most of the war underground. Nye’s father, Ned Nye, who also worked for the Navy, was captured by the Japanese Navy and held in a war camp without electricity for almost four years.
While a prisoner, he began to observe the motion of the sun to determine his location and mark the passage of time. When he came back to the U.S., he was fascinated with sundials.
“One of my father’s fabulous ideas [was to turn] the Washington Monument into a giant sundial,” Nye said. “If you go during spring and the fall, you can walk along with the shadow.” Attempting to do so in the winter would cause problems. “You would have to move the White House,” Nye said.
Nye picked up on his parents’ skills, which began his lifelong interest in science and sundials. After extensive sundial research, Nye continued his passion by working on a team to create the MarsDial- a sundial designed for missions to Mars.
According to Nye, the MarsDial is used for calibrating the colors of the images from Mars and tracking time. Nye explained that shadows reflect the color of the sky because there is always a slight tinge of the background color in a shadow. MarsDials help to discover that.
Written on the side of the MarsDials is a message Nye believes to be the essence of science. “To those who visit here, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery,” Nye said. “[Discovery] is what makes humans different from so many other things, we understand our place in nature [and space], and with that knowledge we can change the world.”
“I want everyone to realize the science in everyday life,” Nye said. “The ability to recognize time is an amazing thing.” Nye explained that it is a concept that is complex, yet so many people take it for granted.
Things that are a part of everyday life, such as the calendar year, were once crazy ideas people never thought possible. “Those crazy ideas are what change the world,” Nye said. The enthusiasm of the audience seems to suggest that Auburn students embrace Nye’s views on science, discovery and changing the world.