He studied under Carl Sagan. He’s the chief executive officer of The Planetary Society, which Sagan co-founded.
But most people know Bill Nye the Science Guy from his children’s educational television show with its catchy theme song.
Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill!
So it wasn’t surprising that when Nye came to San Juan Capistrano Wednesday, a few fans showed up in his trademark bow ties.
Except theirs had sequins.
But rather than capitalize on his quirky, geeky-is-cool persona, what followed was a very heady conversation about science and the survival of the planet.
The occasion was the last in the ’s monthly showings of Cosmos: A Personal Journey, the PBS special from 1980 that’s still the No. 1 science special on public television.
The video was screened first. As Sagan offered a dramatization of a troubling dream he had and discussed the dichotomy in man’s nature – the capacity for both aggression and love – it was clear the prospect of worldwide nuclear destruction was weighing heavily on him.
And so the theme, as Sagan put it, of “who speaks for the earth” carried into the after-showing conversation, which also included Michael Shermer, editor-in-chief of Skeptic Magazine.
“We are still living in a turning point,” Nye said. Instead of nuclear holocaust – although with North Korea and Iran, that’s still a possibility, he said – the bigger concern for the day is climate change and the subsequent loss of habitat.
“It will be every bit as challenging as a nuclear exchange,” Nye said. He referenced the Chinese proverb: May you live in interesting times. And noted that it’s actually a curse.
“We are living in interesting times, but we can change the world,” he said.
Nye was asked by an audience member to predict the future. Although optimistic, he sees life 50 years from now being still tough.
“I’ m a human, but I’m also an engineer [audience laughs]. We think there are solutions to these problems. We could ‘get ‘er done.’ But you need political will,” Nye said.
The world will have to embrace innovation, elevate the status of women to slow population growth … and not kill each other, he said.
Nye sees it all coming together in 100 years, when we’ll have discovered a whole host of better, cleaner sources of energy and an efficient way to deliver them.
“If you could figure it out, guess what would happen? You would get RICH,” he said to more laughs.
Nye appreciated the quality of questions the audience – which overflowed into a second theater – fielded him.
“This is great you guys. This is fun.”