CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 19, 2012 – Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author and inventor — best known as “the Science Guy” — will speak at Southeast Missouri State University April 3 as part of the 2011-2012 University Speaker Series.
“An Evening with Bill Nye” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Show Me Center. The talk is open to the public. Tickets are required for entry. General admission tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.showmecenter.biz and the Show Me Center Box Office. Current Southeast faculty, staff and students can use a valid Redhawks ID to pick up free tickets in the University Center Room 202, the Center for Student Involvement or the Show Me Center Box Office.
Nye is a man with a mission – to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes the world work.
Making science entertaining and accessible is something Nye has done most of his life. He discovered he had a talent for tutoring in high school and while growing up in Washington, D.C. He spent afternoons and summers de-mystifying math for his fellow students. He also liked to spend hours taking apart his bicycle to “see how it worked.”
His fascination with how things work led him to Cornell University and a degree in mechanical engineering. After graduating, he worked as an engineer with Boeing. During his time in Seattle, Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy. He won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night.
Eventually, he quit his engineering job and transitioned to a mid-morning-to-late-at-night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live.” Here “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” was born. The show appeared before “Saturday Night Live” and later on “Comedy Central,” originating at Seattle’s NBC affiliate, KING-TV. With fellow KING-TV alumni Jim McKenna and Erren Gottlieb, Nye made several award winning shows, including “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” The show ran on weekends at first and then later on PBS five nights a week and in syndication on weekends. Some markets aired the “Science Guy” seven days a week.
While working on the “Science Guy” show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing and producing. The show won 28 Emmys in five years. While creating the shows, he also wrote five children’s books about science, most recently, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.”
Nye is the host of two currently-running television series. “The 100 Greatest Discoveries” airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of Nye” airs on PBS stations nationwide.
Nye was asked to speak at his former professor Carl Sagan’s memorial service and has since moved from being a regular member of the Planetary Society to becoming a member of the board of directors.
In 1998, Nye was invited to Cornell to a meeting concerning the nascent missions to Mars. Upon taking one look at the “photometric calibrations targets,” Nye said they needed to be made into sundials. Nye’s father, Ned Nye, had been a prisoner of war and had lived without electricity for nearly four years. During this time he developed a fascination with sundials. When he returned to the United States, he married his college sweetheart, Jacquie Jenkins. Because she was good at math and science, she had been recruited by the Navy to work on secret codes. Ned and Jacquie Nye fostered Bill Nye’s interest in science, and Bill Nye caught Ned Nye’s love of knomonics – sundials. Bill Nye connected the Cornell scientists with Woody Sullivan, a University of Washington professor and astronomer and sundial expert. As a result, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars are both fitted with photometric calibration MarsDials.
Since then, Bill Nye regularly visits Cornell as a professor as part of the Frank H.T. Rhodes Visiting Professorship.
Nye has worked extensively to set up and promote the EarthDial Project, a set of sundials around the world visually reminiscence of the Mars Dials and linked together on the World Wide Web. People can use the site and the process of building their own sundials to gain a better understanding of geography, astronomy and society’s complex system of timekeeping.
Nye has two patents on educational products – a magnifier made of water and an abacus that performs arithmetic like a computer. He has a patent pending on a device to help people learn to throw a baseball better. His next patent is an improved toe shoe for ballerinas.
Nye has not changed much through the years. He still rides his bike to work. He tutored inner-city kids in the I Have a Dream program, and he still pulls out his Periodic Table of Elements or his Map of Human Skin Tone from his wallet.
In addition to his engineering degree from Cornell, Nye holds two honors doctoral degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Goucher College.