March 9, 2006

Bill Nye '77, 'the Science Guy,' Chats About Weather

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He’s easily one of Cornell’s most recognizable alumni. The mere mention of his name is guaranteed to elicit the same response from any student on campus: a ten-second snippet of the theme song to a popular ’90s television show. And last night, he made a sold-out appearance at the Statler Auditorium: Bill Nye ’77, “the Science Guy.”

Prof. Jim Bell, astronomy, introduced Nye to the eager audience as “a really cool geek,” citing his numerous visits to Cornell as “entertaining, educational, and inspirational.” Bell, as faculty host for Nye’s visit, ended his flattering introduction by asking “how many Bill Nyes does it take to change a light bulb?” His answer? “Two: one to change the light bulb and another to change the world!”

Donning his trademark bowtie, Nye, a Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professor, began his third annual talk at the Statler. Standing in front of a screen projecting the title of his lecture, “Everybody Talks about the Weather,” he opened by adding “but nobody does anything about it.”

Nye began his segment on global climate change by playing a clip of his appearance on Fox News encouraging the government to take action to protect against hurricanes.

“That was in April,” Nye said when the clip ended. “So am I a genius?”

Nye, best known for his Emmy-award winning PBS show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” kept the audience laughing as he proposed new names for global climate change. Among his suggestions were “global heating,” “really hot … really soon” and “we’re burned!” He described himself as a “broken record” on the dangers of global warming and joked that “Canada stands to do very well … we in the United States, not so good.”

“[I promise to] keep preaching in hopes that we voters and taxpayers embrace it,” he said.

Nye drew much audience laughter when he reminisced about his time at Cornell. A graduate of the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Nye described the 1970s as a time of Barry Manilow music and daily doses of “Star Trek.”

“It just gave us this fantastic view of the future – everywhere you go, people will speak English!” Nye said.

He jokingly advised the audience that “if you go to Mars – which I hope you do – don’t forget to take food, like on a camping trip and something to breathe.”

Nye returned to the subject of climate change by recounting his recent experience studying ice samples at an ice core lab in Glendale, Colo.

“The really significant thing that ice does is that it reveals these astonishing things about the past,” he said.

Speaking on his involvement with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nye presented a graph of projected global climate change – what he referred to as “the famous famous graph of death!” – succinctly concluding that the potentially huge problem of global heating “kinda [sic] sucks.”

Nye next focused on fuel use and gas mileage in their contributions to global climate change. He encouraged students to consider the effects of global climate change in various ways, from walking instead of driving to investing and supporting wind energy, asserting that “the U.S. could support a third of its energy needs with wind.”

He also advocated careful energy consumption, saying that “we could easily save about a third of the power we use right now just by conservation.”

A continuing theme throughout Nye’s lecture was his encouragement of Cornell students to recognize their role as members of a “hopeful, wonderful legacy” as Cornellians. Projecting a picture of the earth onstage, he said that “everybody on the earth cannot live the way we live in the United States. We’d need more of these, and we only have one.”

By considering the effects of global climate change and embracing the legacy built into the Cornell community, Nye said, students have the potential to “dare I say it? Change the world.”

Nye can currently be seen as the host of his latest PBS show, “The Eyes of Nye,” and in guest appearances on the CBS show “Numbers.”

Archived article by Christine Ryu
Sun Staff Writer