If there was such a thing as the Church of Scientific Literacy, Bill Nye the Science Guy would be the head preacher. And that Church’s rolling wacky thunder filled The Maritime Aquarium’s IMAX Theater last night with his worshippers.
Nye the preacher doesn’t preach about souls being saved. He wants the planet to be saved.
The famed bow-tie-wearing inspirer of Sheldon Coopers everywhere has been sounding the alarm about climate change for years. And, after a now-infamous televised debate on evolution vs. creationism in February, he’s also carrying the banner for scientific literacy.
In an appearance sponsored by First County Bank, Nye’s Aquarium talk zigged and zagged through comical asides, starting with an explanation for how this all got “in my blood”: his mother was a U.S. Navy cryptographer during World War II, and his father, even as an adult, called himself “Ned Nye, Boy Scientist.”
Nye recounted how his father’s obsession with sundials was reborn through him while Nye was attending a planning meeting for the Mars Exploration Rovers. The visual trigger was a tall knob on a dial that the rover would use to “color balance” the rover’s camera.
“ ‘Guys, we have to make the photometric calibration target into a sundial!,’ ” Nye recalled exclaiming.
[Author’s note here: writing what Nye said pales in comparison to actually hearing & seeing him say it in person. Sorry.]
Talk of Mars led Nye to compare Mars and Earth – the colors and contents of their atmospheres – and that’s how his presentation reached its true target: the increase in Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide.
“That tiny change is changing the world,” he said.
“The reason the atmosphere is changing, the reason we have climate change, is not that complicated,” he said. “In my lifetime, (Earth’s population) has more than doubled. And everybody is burning something some place for energy.”
Nye said solutions are available, beginning with solar energy, which he uses for his home.
“When you get your electric bill every 60 days, every two months, and it’s $10, it’s just … fun,” he said. “Installing it costs about as much as a pretty nice car.”
Wind energy in North Dakota, he added, could power the country five times over “if we could just get it from there to where we need it.”
And he supported a national “fee and dividend” system, similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund, that would motivate everyone to move toward renewable energies.
In explaining his solutions, in a goofy way that only Bill Nye can, he would speak like a prophetic mystic, saying, “We can – dare I say it – change the world.”
Nye expressed surprise over the publicity from his debate on evolution vs. creationism in February with Ken Ham (who also dismisses the idea of current climate change).
“Almost 4 million people have watched it! I thought it would just be a gig like this, with all due,” he said to laughs.
“This matters because the leader and his flock have a world view that’s not going to help,” he said. “It wouldn’t matter, but I live here too. … This is not what you want in your citizenry: the inability to think critically.”
It was that debate, he said, that inspired him to write his new book, “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation.”
Nye – the CEO of the Planetary Society – book-ended his presentation with photos from space: first, the famous “Earthrise” photo by Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968 and, to close, a view from the Cassini spacecraft looking up a section of Saturn’s rings with Earth just a distant blue dot.
“There’s nobody coming to save us,” he said.
– Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist
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