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Bill Nye the Science Guy delivers talk to nearly 5,000 young admirers

Photos by Kyle Hansford

WEARING HIS TRADEMARK bow tie and substituting his lab coat for a more formal look, William Nye, better known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, arrived at the Convention Centre in the nation’s capital to deliver a speech to students from both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa on March 14.

The talk, which sold out three times as more and more tickets were made available, saw more than 4,500 people attend the record-breaking event hosted by the U of O’s Science Students’ Association.

Nye was in his element, talking about the subject he cares about most: science.

“I don’t think I get it. I don’t think I get the influence of the Science Guy show,” Nye said in an interview with the Fulcrum before his talk.

“I mean, how many people—4,500 people are going to be there tonight? Really, we were just messing around in a warehouse in Seattle. So, it’s very cool.”

 

Nye might have taught us that inertia is a property of matter, what a bit is, and all about the periodic table, but ironically, his background isn’t in science, but in mathematics. The Fulcrum asked him what he was before becoming the revered Science Guy.

“I was a human, as far as I know,” he said.

He answered seriously after a moment, adding that he was a mechanical engineer and worked for Boeing.

“I don’t want to make you nervous, but I did work on 747 airplanes. I was very well supervised. I worked in a ship yard for a little while,” he said.

According to Nye, the career path he found himself headed toward was too concerned with turning over a profit, and it was precisely this reason that made him switch professions.

“I was working for a bunch of people who were obsessed with making a profit every quarter, every three months,” he explained.

“As the old joke goes, you can’t hire 10,000 engineers and do the thing in a weekend. I decided there was no future in that. They were not forward thinkers and I wanted to influence the future. That’s the decision I made in about 1986—Oct. 3 roughly.”

The legacy of Bill Nye the Science Guy reaches further than reruns on TVO. That much was evident at the Convention Centre, as students declared their love and admiration for the man who introduced them to science.

However, Nye remains humble despite his warm reception and widespread appreciation.

“Does getting excited about science lead to a cure for cancer, new energy sources, storage transmissions, raising the standard of living for women all around the world? Is that all going to happen because of a TV show? I don’t know. I gave it my best.”

Nye may have spoken about sundials, outer space, the planet Mars, and the environment at length, but there was a message behind his seemingly eclectic speech.

“I want you people to change the world,” he said.

“I want one of you to cure cancer, or to find out why the universe is accelerating rather than slowing down. I’d like you to find out what dark energy and dark matter is. I’d like you to change the world for the better. So let’s go, people.”