by Aditi Bhandari
In a sold-out event at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) spoke about climate change, the future of space exploration and his career path to hundreds of Northwestern University students Friday evening. The popular science educator and TV host was invited to campus as the Northwestern University College Democrats Spring Speaker. Students began lining up an hour and a half before doors opened.
“Some of the earliest memories I have of science classes are of watching Bill Nye’s videos,” said Weinberg sophomore Benjamin Kraft, one of the first in line. “I’m really excited to close that loop, so to speak, and to see him in college as a science major.”
Classy as always, Nye took the stage in a dark blue blazer and a multi-colored bowtie (no signature light blue lab coat this time). He talked about his family history and his contributions to space exploration before delving into climate change and the need to take action to combat it.
“People who are in denial of climate change are just not paying attention,” he said. “Or, they’re working very hard to protect the interests of certain people.”
Ever the scientist, much of Nye’s speech focused on the importance of evidence to support your beliefs. Armed with various graphs and photographs, he displayed research demonstrating global warming and rallied against Creationism. Calling Creationist and and recent debate opponent Ken Ham’s uncompromising belief “un-American,” Nye briefly explained how even today, in many parts of the country children are being taught that evolution is false. He insisted that only education and open-mindedness would eventually convince the world to believe in scientific discoveries, which is why research such as space exploration is so important.
“Space exploration brings out the best in humankind,” Nye said. “When we’re learning about space, we’re learning about ourselves, the cosmos and our place in it.”
Once his presentation was over, Nye took questions from the audience, covering topics like the balance between comedy and education and the importance of not “dumbing it down” – a phrase he said he hates. In the middle of one question, the audience erupted into cheers as Nye got a call back from his friend, “Neil,” a.k.a. Neil deGrasse Tyson, who he had been trying contact earlier. Nye put Tyson on speakerphone and let him answer a question; the excitement in the room emphasized the reasons behind the name ‘Nerdwestern.’
That atmosphere of enthusiasm throughout the evening really stood out, said Quentin Heilbroner, the outgoing president of the NU College Democrats, who worked for almost a year to bring Nye to campus.
“Something that I’ll always remember about this evening is probably the fact that people were chanting, “Thank you!” at the end,” Heilbroner said. “I thought that was really incredible.”
As one of the winners of the #chillwithBill social media contest, Weinberg sophomore Jordan Villanueva had a chance to meet Bill Nye in a reception before the speech.
“My one big takeaway for the night was the personal challenge that he gave me in the reception, which was to go out and prove that science can change the world,” Villanueva said after the talk had ended. “And I think that going forward in my education and my career, that’s something that I hope I keep with me.”
Based on his message, that is exactly what Nye was hoping students would take away from his talk.
“I want you guys to consider becoming the next great generation,” Nye said. “I want you guys to, dare I say it…change the world!”
If you want to experience the night in even more detail, check out our live-twitter feed from the talk!