With his 19-time Emmy Award–winning show, Bill Nye the Science Guy introduced the joy of scientific discovery to a worldwide audience.
Rising to national acclaim in the 1990s, Bill Nye blended his love for solving problems as an engineer and his passion for entertaining into a show that helped kids learn to love science. “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” one of a number of award-winning shows Bill created, won 19 Emmy Awards, including seven for Bill’s writing, performing, and producing.
As an award-winning entertainer and educator; former engineer at the American aviation giant Boeing; and CEO of the Planetary Society, Bill has taken on challenges ranging from the sun’s position in relation to Mars to the beleaguered feet of ballet dancers. Wherever he goes, he
brings a knack for engaging the population at large—adults and children alike.
A native of Washington, D.C., Bill earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he studied under legendary American astronomer Carl Sagan. By the time he launched his namesake television series Bill Nye the Science Guy, in
1993, he had invented a hydraulic pressure resonance successor tube that’s used in Boeing 747 airplanes to this day. He’d also performed as a stand-up comedian on Almost Live!, a sketch show based in Seattle, Washington. His lab coat from the original Science Guy series is preserved at
the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
As Bill’s star has risen, so has his concern for the planet. In 2017, the streaming platform Netflix premiered Bill Nye Saves the World, a series aimed at fact-finding and solutions; it ran for three seasons and garnered three Emmy Award nominations (the awards symbolize outstanding
achievement in television).
The Scientific Method
STEP 1: OBSERVE
Something catches your attention, be it a dilemma you deplore or an occurrence you don’t understand. Your eyebrows go up. You ask yourself: What’s that about?
STEP 2: STUDY
You take a closer look and do some basic research.
STEP 3: HYPOTHESIZE
Based on your observation and research, you come up with a tentative explanation.
STEP 4: TEST
You come up with a way to test your hypothesis by gathering and analyzing data.
STEP 5: COMPARE
Now you’re ready to compare your hypothesis with the actual outcome.
STEP 6: REPORT
Draw a conclusion. Hypothesis debunked? Revisit the first step, and work on a new one.
A theory of evaluation attributed to the fourteenth-century English Franciscan friar William of Occam (sometimes styled Ockham). The theory posits that it is generally best to select hypotheses that contain the fewest assumptions, as fewer assumptions means less room for error or falsification.
- Is the claim specific? The more generic the statement, the more room there is for falsification, prejudice, and error.
- Is there a simpler explanation? The principle known as Occam’s razor contends that, when faced with competing hypotheses about a single claim, one should select the claim attended by the lowest number of assumptions.
In essence, simpler explanations are preferable because they tend to be more testable. And speaking of tests—
- Can the claim be independently verified? By testing a claim without the involvement of the person making it,
you are generating information that cannot have been manipulated by that person. This is how you arm yourself
against claims that, as persuasive as they may be, are not backed by evidence
A portmanteau indicating the ability to complete a given endeavor. Whenever you start a project, you have to have initiative.
- Is the information coming from an advertiser?
When it comes to marketing claims, a little healthy skepticism goes a long way. “Don’t get me wrong,
there are some advertising claims which are completely true,” Bill notes. “Just be sure that they are.”
- Is the information coming from an identifiable source? Here’s where hearsay comes into play. If you can’t pinpoint the source of a statement, it may have been made up, misinterpreted, or distorted along the way.
- Does the information benefit one group of people more than another? As with marketing interests, it’s sensible to pause and ground your perspective by researching other sources whenever self-motivation may have colored a claim.
- Does the information contradict things you know to be true? “If someone says, ‘The moon is made of cheese,’ you might know that the moon is made of rocks,” Bill chides—and yet it’s easy enough to fall into the trap of going along with a claim, even when it contradicts everything you’ve heard before. In those instances, take a moment and question the information before you.
- Do you really want this information to be true? “The last red flag, the most dangerous one!” Bill warns. You might, for instance, love the idea that humans can live on Mars. It stokes your imagination, it promises solutions to Earth’s most distressing problems—but regardless of its appeal, the possibility of colonizing other planets in the near future is just not supported by facts.
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