Bill Nye the Science Guy, star of the eponymous children’s television show that aired from 1993 to 1998, drew what organizers say was the biggest crowd for an event held by University of Ottawa students in nearly four decades.
Elementary school kids, university students and others packed the Ottawa Convention Centre’s biggest room on Thursday evening and listened to the 57-year-old man tell science jokes, personal stories and plead with them to fight climate change and make a difference in the world.
Nye began with the story of his father, who was a prisoner of war in China during World War Two. To tell how much time he spent in the camp, Nye’s dad used a shovel as a sundial. That story was passed down from father to son, and so the science guy became obsessed with sundials, developing what he jokingly called SOD (Sundial Obsessive Disorder). Because of this fascination, he started two projects. MarsDial created three sundials for rovers that were flown to the red planet. The second project, EarthDial, is a program that allows people all over the world to make sundials and learn about astronomy, the scientific method, “and our place among the stars.”
Nye wanted his audience in Ottawa last night to come together and be inspired, much like participants of the sundial projects.
“My friends, we are living in extraordinary times and you will see things nobody else has seen,” he said, before dedicating the rest of his lecture to climate change. He said that rapid growth in population and technology has messed with the atmosphere, and added “we have to do more.” He said it isn’t enough to lead a minimalist lifestyle; we must to produce less emissions too.
Nye’s key message was that anyone can make a difference. Throughout the lecture he repeated the line: “You can, dare I say it, change the world.”
Kathryn Laframboise, an educator at the Canada Science and Technology Museum and an elementary school teacher, was first in line to see the science guy. She waited two-and-a-half hours. Because of subzero temperatures, she couldn’t feel her fingers by the time the doors opened at 5 p.m., but said it was worth the wait. Laframboise said she grew up watching Nye on TV. “He really helped bring science to the home and made it interactive instead of just instructional,” she said. “I want to bring that enthusiasm and love for science to the classroom and inspire a generation.”
“Look how many people are here,” said Jason Gowler, a Carleton University political science graduate. “It’s 20 years later and we’re flocking to a sold-out show to see someone who inspired us.”
Ksenia Gasper, who watched in her grade school classroom after moving from Russia, added “he touches on different disciplines. It doesn’t matter what you’re interested in, he spoke to you.”
Nye told the audience his legacy is not yet complete. He showed off the Bill Nye the Science Guy iPhone app, which will debut in the near future and pointed to his work with The Planetary Society, a non-governmental organization promoting the exploration of space, asking listeners to get involved.
“This is a turning point in history,” he said. “You’re part of this—don’t blow it.”