Bill Nye

University of Georgia's University Union hosted a Zoom on Thursday, April 22, with Bill Nye the Science Guy in partnership with the Office of Sustainability and UGA Student Government Association. (Photo/Hayley Croke)

After an hour watching Bill Nye answer questions from University of Georgia students during his virtual conversation with University Union, it’s clear the fast pace and quick wit of his show reflects Nye in real life.

The event, held on Thursday, was put on by University Union in partnership with the Office of Sustainability and UGA Student Government Association. Nye appeared on Zoom from an apartment overlooking New York City, sporting a teal bow tie with blue and white stripes.

Nye started off the evening with two experiments, both of which he referred to as “stupid fun.” In the first, Nye attempted to blow out a match while holding a spatula between his mouth and the flame. While he failed on his first attempt, he found success when he switched out the spatula for a glass cup. The air was able to travel around the round edge of the glass to extinguish the flame.

In his second experiment, he had one hard boiled egg and one raw egg. He explained due to the viscosity of the raw egg, it would eventually come to a stop after being spun. In contrast, when he spun the hard boiled egg it continued to spin because it had a hard core. Without missing a beat he then cracked the hard boiled egg on his head in true Bill Nye fashion.

Madison Drummond, director of communications for SGA, knew Bill Nye would be a big draw for many students. His show, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” was a staple in most students’ science classrooms growing up.

“For me personally it was a really big part of why I love science and starting thinking of science as something that was cool and not just a subject I had to sit through,” Drummond said. “I really hope it brings some nostalgia for people but I also hope they can explore the ideas of sustainability and how to keep that really cool passion alive within themselves.”

Nye's journey to show biz 

Nye was quick with jokes and honest with his answers. An array of topics both playful and serious were discussed. He spoke of his time on “Dancing with the Stars,” his newfound passion for bread making and what made him interested in science in the first place.

“What happened was I got stung by a bee. My mother put ammonia on it and the bee sting went away and I thought that was amazing, and then I started watching bees,” Nye said.

His initial intrigue, investigating how bees operate, manifested into an interest in airplanes and bicycles. His love for science grew in his high school AP physics course and eventually in what he referred to as a “surprise move” — studying mechanical engineering at Cornell University.

Nye’s break into show business however, is credited to an unexpected star: Steve Martin. While Nye was working at Boeing, an aerospace company, Warner Records was sponsoring a Steve Martin look-alike contest. Nye’s freshman year college roommate encouraged him to enter. Nye ended up winning and said this experience is what brought him into the world of stand up comedy, later leading to “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

Returning to the theater 

While this event was similar in structure to University Union’s past virtual conversations, this Q&A was the first where an in-person screening was made available. Kelly Strachan, SGA’s director of initiatives, said the three organizations were happy to be able to finally provide an option for in-person attendance.

“Social engagement has been the biggest missing thing in a student’s experience coming on campus this year. For us to navigate that circumstance, it was really important to have an event that was safe but also encouraging interactions,” Strachan said.

Roughly 20 students viewed the Q&A from the in-person screening at the Tate Student Center Theatre. As students took their seats, one commented “I haven’t gone to a movie theater in forever,” while others even began to chant the “Bill Nye the Science Guy” theme song.

Throughout the screening, audience members cheered, laughed and chatted as Nye performed his zany antics. Nye did get serious however when he spoke of climate change and the hope he has for young people to create effective change.

“If there’s one big thing to do about climate change, talk about it,” Nye said. “I am very excited about the future because you guys are going to be running the show and you won’t lose focus on climate issues.”