Bill Nye Wants our Future Generations to Run the Economy with Science Literacy

Bill Nye the Science Guy, CEO of The Planetary Society, talks about the importance of science literacy.

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ENGINEERING.com's Dan Hedges caught up with Bill Nye the Science Guy at the USA Science & Engineering festival, a shaper of young STEM minds everywhere.

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So your last show on Bill Nye the Science Guy was taped sixteen years ago. And yet your popularity among children younger than that is huge. What is the secret to staying power?
"(Old man voice) YES. Well teachers use it in school. And I claim the reason the show is still used. The reason it stands the test of time, I mean to the extent that it has, this is not the Parthenon, is because we focused on pure science rather than technology. We had clear learning objectives which were consistent with not only the curriculum then, but certainly what I and my colleagues envisioned would be reasonable things to talk about."


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What do you think is the best science show for kids on television now?
"Oh, boy. Well people like Sid the Science Kid. I had nothing to do with that. Nobody asked me about that."


"But you know we are very hopeful that Cosmos will reach a lot of people. The Planetary Society I'm the CEO. Neil deGrasse Tyson sits on our board, and Ann Druyan, was Carl Sagan's widow, we all go way back. So we are very hopeful Cosmos will be a big hit!



You recently debated creationist Ken Ham. What were you hoping to accomplish and do you feel like you did that?

"So yeah. I feel what I want to do is raise awareness of this issue. This is to say, the United States is the world leader in technology. Well maybe there are other societies that have fewer poor people and so on. But US is a world leader in technology and innovation. And we can't have a generation of science students being raised who are scientifically illiterate. And that's essentially what that organization promotes is: science illiteracy."


"I can't get over how many people watched that debate. I thought to be a college gig, a little Twitter actions, Facebooking and would blow over. But no it turned into this huge thing which is good."


"And we'll see of the other objective frankly to state it plainly I just hope that organization and its views are discredited. And for lack of a better term I hope they go out of business. Now it's not gonna happen this weekend, but over the next say ten years we'll see if they are no longer sustainable. That'd be really good. It's nothing personal, the guys very passionate, but he's wrong about science. That's all there is to it, he's just wrong."


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You do a lot to promote climate change awareness. You do a lot to promote people to basically change their behavior and it strikes me that people's behaviors are very difficult to change.
"Well, it is for grownups. But kids like we have here at the science festival they grasp the idea, they are the future. They are the people that are going to change the world."


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Is that the strategy? To plant some seeds into young people?
"No, no that's my strategy. That's it."


"(Old man voice) back in 88. I was frustrated with the engineering community at large not just mechanical. People in the US were obsessed with making money every quarter, every three months. And you can't innovate with that attitude. You're not going to let engineers relax and think big and come up with big ideas."


"So I want to get young people excited about science so in the future we would have more scientists and engineers especially."


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So why did you come to the festival. What brings you to the festival? It's your third year here why do you think this is important?
"We're trying to change the world we're gonna get young people excited about science so that the United States in particular can have generations of scientific literate student