Amid chants of “Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!, the Science Guy himself logged on to Reddit yesterday afternoon to answer questions about science, his childhood, his favorite experiments, and a human mission to Mars. Despite a weird Gillette plug in his opening post, Bill Nye’s latest AMA turned out to be just as fun as the one he hosted last year.
Here are our eight favorite questions and answers.
1. Bill Nye’s life was changed by bees.
User MuddIsland asks, “Mr. Nye is there any interesting event from your childhood, teens, or even adult life that you would be willing to share? If so what is it and how did it affect your life?”
I watched bumble bees (Hymentoptera bombidae) for hours. How could such a relatively big animal fly with such relatively small wings? The answer was discovered in my lifetime. Their abdomens are springs, and their halteres provide vortices with allow the wings to swing up with hardly any aerodynamic drag. If I may, how cool is that?
2. Bill Nye sometimes gets science facts wrong.
After Nye’s poetic description of bumble bee anatomy, user jhartsho very hesitantly offers a correction:
I can’t believe I’m about to do this….but hymenopterans don’t have halteres. Those are specialized balancing structures limited to Diptera (flies). Hence di (two) ptera (wing). Hymenoptera still have all four wings, no balancing structures. Their muscles vibrate instead of contract to allow for extremely fast wing movement. They also use these vibrations in cold weather to heat their bodies. Sorry, Mr. Nye. As an entomologist I just had to. I’m gonna go punch myself in the face now.
3. Bill Nye has a favorite science experiment.
User crow6671 asks, “Thank you for doing this iAmA. You rock!! Here’s my question, what is one of your favorite experiments to do?”
Nye’s got it covered:
I really do love to see a water balloon get pushed into a glass bottle by atmospheric pressure (as though by a giant’s thumb). Check out Sophia.org
4. Bill Nye can’t pick a favorite scientific theorem.
User TheSillyLion asks, “What is your favorite scientific theorem or equation? (Example: theory of relativity, Hubble parameter, E=mc2)”
Nye puts it in perspective:
Can’t say I have a favorite. They are all so important to our understanding of nature and our place in space. With that said, Michael Faraday changed the world. We have electricity and these fancy computer machines as a result. BTW, Darwin discovered so much about how we came to be, and he didn’t even know about DNA. Astonishing. It’s the process of science that has changed the world. Science rules!
5. Bill Nye won’t discount the idea of life on Mars.
User Jamiefox92 asks, “Do you think that we could have a manned mission to Mars in our lifetime with all the factors such as time from Earth to Mars and with the amount of solar radiation that the men would face during the trip?”
Nye dreams of Martians:
Were we to discover evidence of something alive on Mars, either fossil or even living now (!!?!!!), it would change this world forever. And… we’d mount a human mission to Mars. Check out #exploreplanets. Visit planetary.org to see how you can help make this discovery much more likely, to wit, by influencing space policy at NASA, the world’s largest space agency.
6. Bill Nye can explain dark matter in one sentence.
User DrXaverius asks, “Can you explain dark matter in layman’s terms?”
Yes, Nye can:
It’s apparently the source of gravity that is at once holding galaxies together and pulling them apart at an accelerating rate. Hmm…
7. Bill Nye never gets bored.
User cloudclad asks, “What field of science bores you the most?”
Nye is polite but firm:
Strongly encourage you never to use the word “bore” or “boring.” It says a lot about a person. It’s hard for me to imagine being “bored,” ever. The world is so exciting and fascinating, yes?
8. Bill Nye isn’t in it for the money.
User MuscleMansMom asks, “Hi Mr. Nye! What made you chose doing stuff like kid shows as opposed to working solely in a lab?”
Nye believes in the scientist in everyone:
I worked at an engineering firm (which has since been absorbed) for people obsessed with making a profit every quarter (every 3 months). You cannot advance much with that outlook. So, I decided to affect the future as much as could; I shifted my focus to elementary science education. The objective 20 years ago, and the objective now, is to, dare I say it, change the world. The outcome is still to come I believe as people like you become engineers and captains of industry. I’m hoping you all will make the world great.