Bill Nye, the one-and-only “Science Guy”, came to CU’s Macky Auditorium Tuesday night to tell hundreds of nostalgic fans how they can — dare he say it? — change the world.
The eager few who scored tickets for the much-anticipated event were camped out in front of Macky Auditorium by 6:15pm, 45 minutes before the doors were opened. Some gathered in circles playing cards while others studied, but most were discussing Nye.
“I mean, the cornerstone of our education was Bill Nye,” said Clementine Stowe, a 19-year-old sophomore studying integrative physiology and neuroscience. “No wonder there’s a ton of us here.”
“Yeah, if they brought the Pope, there’d probably be about the same attendance,” said William Grandbois, a 20-year-old junior majoring in anthropology.
Shortly before 7pm, the crowd poured into the auditorium, cheering and chanting, “Bill! Bill! Bill!” as if Nye were an old friend. When Punam Chatterjee, Chair of the Distinguished Speaker’s Board that brought Nye to CU, came on stage to introduce the Science Guy, she marveled at the crowd’s enthusiasm.
“Man, you guys are really excited, aren’t you?” said Chatterjee over the cheers.
Daniel Griffitts, a 22-year-old senior majoring in geology, applauded DSB for bringing Nye to campus.
“It’s hard to go wrong with Bill Nye,” Griffitts said. “I mean, it’s Bill Nye. He could do anything and I would approve.”
As Nye walked on stage, he was greeted with a standing ovation and roaring cheers. He began his presentation with a welcome that echoed science fiction novels.
“Greetings, Boulder,” Nye said, bowing to the crowd.
Titled, “Your Place in Space”, Nye’s presentation covered a range of ways students can impact the future of our planet and emphasized the importance of tackling problems like climate change and overpopulation.
“The world has never gotten this warm, this fast,” Nye said. “And this is of great concern to all of us. And you guys are going to have to like, totally deal with it.”
Nye began his presentation by introducing a theme that carried through the evening: sundials. Nye used this theme to discuss the leaps and bounds of space travel in his lifetime. This included the Mars Rovers, both of which bear sundials with the inscription, “Two Worlds, One Sun”.
“The shadows on Mars are cast by light from the same star that casts shadows on Earth,” Nye said. “I hope that gives you something to think about. I hope that helps you when you think about what I like to call your place in space.”
Nye contrasted chilling images, like the distinct line of smog below Mt. Rainier’s summit, with more optimistic images of the future, such as bike tunnels and buildings covered in gardens.
“If you take a second, you will see the affects of humans on the atmosphere just about everywhere you go,” Nye said. “Do more with less. That, my friends, is how I want you to change the world.”
Nye was visibly passionate about empowering the audience, mostly made up of what he called the “space and climate generation”, to change the world. However, despite his scientific leanings, Nye did not limit this change to scientific discoveries.
“Putting rovers on Mars, finding salts in Martian soil that prove there were seas on Mars: that is nothing,” Nye said. “That is child’s play compared to feeding people in East Africa.”
Nye’s call to action was followed by a question and answer session which was characterized by many confessions of admiration and devotion to the television personality. Some questions explored Nye’s position on controversial issues such as nuclear power or GMOs, while others explored his television career. Nye fist-pumped for several students, including a molecular biology major and a representative of the Secular Students and Skeptics Society.
As students filed out of the auditorium, there was a buzz of positivity and nostalgia in the air.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of,” said Evelyn Maguire, a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in chemical and biological engineering.
Michael Siverstein, a 19-year-old sophomore music major, said this dream is probably shared by many students.
“A childhood idol actually coming to talk to us was really cool,” Siverstein said. “Everyone has elementary school memories of watching [Nye’s] videos. It was the highlight of science education.”
Though Nye’s impact on the childhood of the “space and climate generation” is clear in his positive reception, he continues to encourage his fans’ curiosity.
“Imagine a day when everything is just a little bit different,” Nye said. “That’s why you go to college: the joy of discovery.”
Published to CUindependent.com on February 16, 2011. Picked up by Huffingtonpost.com on February 17, 2011.