Bill Nye the Science Guy visits WKU

Bill Nye gives a lecture at Diddle Arena, October 15, as a part of WKU’s Cultural Enhancement Series. Nye talked about different global issues, urging the audience to change the world. “With your brain you can understand al of this, you can understand the cosmos. And you can use this brain to change the world.” William Kolb/HERALD


On a bleak, rainy Wednesday in Bowling Green, hundreds of people lined the sidewalks outside Diddle Arena.

The umbrella-filled queue wrapped back past Parking Structure 1, going as far as The Valley. Some of these people endured nearly two hours of cold rains and wind for one man: Bill Nye.

The science educator and comedian, best known for his Emmy-winning PBS children’s show ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’, addressed a packed the arena as a part of Potter College of Arts and Letters’ Cultural Enhancement series, which presents speakers addressing diverse current social and political issues throughout the school year.

As he walked on stage, Nye received a standing ovation from the 3,950 people in attendance and gave them one challenge.

“I want you to, dare I say it, change the world!” he said to the crowd.

Nye mentioned various scientific endeavors, from his father’s involvement with sundials after a stay in a Japanese prisoner of World War II camp to Nye’s personal contribution of putting sundials on three of the Mars rovers, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.

He also spoke passionately about the possibilities of space exploration. Nye currently serves as Executive Director for The Planetary Society, an organization that advocates for journeying deeper into space with a particular emphasis on missions to Mars.

The visit to WKU wasn’t Nye’s first visit to Kentucky. His last experience in the Bluegrass State involved debating young Earth creationist Ken Ham at the Creation Museum in Petersburg. The televised event spread quickly through social media, leading to a polarized understanding of the science involved. While the debate had no official “winner,” Nye referenced the event with incredulousness.

“Mr. Ham, dude, there are trees older than 9,000,” he said, responding to Ham’s belief of Earth being only 6,000 years old. “You don’t even have to look hard!”

Nye’s wit and humor all went to enhance his main point. When asked who was easier to talk with, Klingon speakers or Ham, Nye quipped, “I can understand Klingon.”

He also brought up passivity toward climate change.

“Climate change is one of the most serious things you’ll face in your lifetime,” he said. “It’s never been this warm this fast at the speed at which these changes are happening, that’s what’s bad.”

Nye referenced a line in the United States Constitution, which stated outright the government’s responsibility “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.”

“If you’re purposefully derailing discussions on climate change, you are, for me, a little unpatriotic,” he said.

But, for Nye, the true essence of science boiled down to a phrase placed on the Mars rovers.

“To these who visit here, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery,” it said.

“I hope you in college feel that joy of discovery in your lives,” Nye repeated.

He concluded his presentation with a brief question-and-answer session, in which the audience could tweet questions using #WKUCES. The questions ranged from invitations to proms and marriage proposals to more serious topics, like containing the Ebola outbreak and women’s stunted participation in science fields.

“Half of the humans on this earth are girls and women,” he said. “Half of science should have girls and women.”

Heather Brown-Reese and her 11-year-old son, Aubryn, braved the inclement weather during their hour drive from Somerset.

“A lot of people I know tried to get tickets to this event, but they sold out so fast,” she said.

“An Evening with Bill Nye” sold out Van Meter auditorium less than 30 minutes after tickets became available, forcing event personnel to move the speech to the home of Hilltopper basketball. Those open seats sold out shortly after. 

Aubryn said he fulfilled a goal of seeing a figure in person he’d only ever watched online.

“Bill Nye is just so cool,” he said.