How Bill Nye Became The Science Guy

bill nyeYou know Bill Nye -he's the Science Guy! But he wasn't always. It was a series of what might appear to be happy coincidences that landed him in the position of pop culture science teacher. But happy coincidences are often just the result of someone who leaps at the right opportunities. Fast Company has an interview with Nye in which he tells how he worked as an airplane engineer while his friends thought he should be the next Steve Martin. At one time he was working with a radio DJ.

Time to time, he’d have questions, and you could answer to win free tickets or what have you. One of them was a question that refers to the Back to the Future movie. And in the answer, he says“jigawatts.” So I called him, and I said, "Ross, you can say jigawatts, but really, we prefer gigawatts.”

[From then on] I called him every day at 4:45 and answered a listener question. And that went on for a few months. And then in January of 1987, we needed six minutes on the comedy show [because a guest cancelled].

I did this bit, "The household uses of liquid nitrogen." Because we all have liquid nitrogen around. So this was just reminder of some tips. I know normally you use it by fitting up your close-fitting machine parts, by getting one part really cold, but you can also use it for straightening out limp celery. You can slice onions with it, when you hit them with a knife, it’s really satisfying. It sounds like breaking glass. It’s a really striking sound. Striking, ah! Hilarious pun. Now the payoff, what I spent a lot of time doing, is you cook or roast marshmallows in liquid nitrogen and then you chew them and steam comes out of your nose. It’s really good.

Link -via mental_floss

(Image credit: Tyler Gray)


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As someone living in the Seattle area.. the (much beloved and much missed) comedy show was called Almost Live!, and, contrary to the impression the article might give, Nye was a regular cast member for years, doing lots of non-science skits. One of his classics is his superhero parody Speedwalker.
When the "Science Guy" thing took off and he got his own show, he brought along some AL folks, such as voice-man Pat Cashman.
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