Review: Bill Nye at URI’s Ryan Center

Bill Nye the Science Guy (Photo: URI Ryan Center)

Bill Nye the Science Guy
(Photo: URI Ryan Center)

In the age of climate-change denial and “alternative facts,” science communicator Bill Nye has proven to be a vital source of information when it comes to the current state of our world and our environment. Most Millennials grew up with Nye from his popular ‘90s TV show “Bill Nye the Science Guy” while the older generation noticed his popularity with the youth. These days, he’s on a self-proclaimed mission to help foster a scientifically knowledgeable society to ensure humanity’s suvival in the future. He’s also never afraid to express his thoughts on sustaining the planet for the generations to come. On October 20 as part of the University of Rhode Island’s Alumni and Family Weekend (that is, “homecoming”), Nye was the main focus of an educational and enlightening session at URI’s Ryan Center.

The stage was set up was reminiscent of the talk show “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis, but with fall decorations. One of the stagehands received applause from the audience for placing water on the table between the two chairs on stage. Moments later Student Entertainment Committee Speakers President Adriana Wilding spoke on stage and introduced Bill Nye and his interviewer, Communication Studies and Theatre Professor, director of the Coastal Institute and Honors Faculty Fellow Judith Swift, and there was a joyous reaction throughout the arena. Both Nye and Swift sat down and the event started.

The session examined Nye’s effect on the current science and medical field along with how his love for science blossomed when he was young. Nye found his calling by playing around with his grandfather’s science equipment and doing experiments. His continues his drive for science with conversations about climate change and how it affects everything and everyone. He talked about how horrible the ‘80s were with polyester leisure suits and the United States abandoning the metric system. Nye also said that he wants the world to have more scientists in an effort toward a better society.

Swift presented questions from the students of the university’s Honors Colloquium: Origins, Life, the Universe and Everything. A question asked about the prospect of colonizing Mars, which Elon Musk and others made a hot topic, and expanding humanity beyond Earth. Nye initially stated the obvious, that people can’t breathe on Mars, but it’s also cold and there’s very little liquid water on the planet. Comparing it to the colonization of America and adapting to different climates, he said that wouldn’t be possible on Mars. Nye speculated about extending Charles Darwin’s ideas of evolution over time to what would happen if Mars were colonized.

About the possibility of life on other planets, Nye wondered, “How could there not be something else alive?” He said colonizing the Moon would be vital to humanity’s pilgrimage to Mars and, “If there’s liquid water on Mars, there’s probably some microbe present there as well.” He said he hopes to see the colonization of Mars happen in his lifetime.

About human longevity Nye said, “You don’t want to be old for the sake of being old. You want to be old and productive,” meaning he’s all for longevity as long as the quality of life is still good.

As Swift’s interview of him was winding down, Nye started to talk about the World’s Fair held in New York City in 1964-1965, noting “The Yankees are fine” – Nye was presumably joking because it was the Mets, not the Yankees, who opened Shea Stadium five days before and across the street from the fair – which got a mix of boos and cheers from the attendees, prompting Swift to remind him that a rival team is popular around these parts by saying “That’s the Red Sox talking.”

Nye said he remains optimistic about the future of the planet due to humans having more control over it than ever before. He related the surprising facts that the state of Iowa makes 99% of the world’s popcorn and they get most of their electricity from the wind. He encouraged people to check out an organization, the Solutions Project, while stressing the importance of renewable energy.

After ending the session by saying that if oil was out of the equation we would have a better shot at world peace, there was time for the audience to ask questions. Asked how to get the word out about climate change, Nye said, “Vote. If you don’t want to vote then just shut up.”

Nye emphasized the importance of recycling, the importance of changing to efficient lightbulbs and the importance of supporting legislation that improves the climate. Another great question was whether Nye thinks space exploration is more important than ocean exploration, and he said that it’s easier to explore the surface of the moon than to explore the bottom of the ocean, but we should devote our intellect to both.

Seeing Bill Nye live was entertaining and people got to learn things that they didn’t know before. It was also a down-to-earth discussion about the issues affecting our planet that we sometimes take for granted. To get more of Nye, watch his current Netflix series “Bill Nye Saves The World.” Don’t be afraid to take it upon yourself to improve the planet while consciously educating others to do the same.

Bill Nye: billnye.com

Ryan Center: theryancenter.com

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