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SAMU Speaker Series: Bill Nye

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On March 25, MacEwan University students had a very special guest join them over the airwaves for SAMU’s Speaker Series—Bill Nye the Science Guy! If you haven’t heard of Nye in one way or another before, you may have been living under a rock. He began his career in cutting-edge scientific technology and industry in the ‘70s, and he’s been entertaining and educating audiences since. Nye is currently the CEO of the Planetary Society, a TV icon lovingly known as “The Science Guy,” and, when a pandemic isn’t limiting his options, a passionate performer and mentor.  

To begin the event, Nye performed an experiment to show viewers how to use a plastic bottle to blow out a burning candle from a distance— go-to for his shows. Nye explained the science behind it, of course, and how it can be a handy party trick to have in your back pocket. The experiment was perfect for a virtual audience, as the effect performed well even through a computer screen and Nye’s magnetic personality kept the audience fully engaged. 

What followed was a student Q&A, comprised of both pre-written and live student questions. Bill Nye is an incredible speaker; he always has a well-spoken and illuminating story or a seriously thought-provoking opinion as an answer. There was quite honestly never a dull moment or a lull in conversation as he spoke, and credit to the moderator, Jason Miller, for keeping up with the witty remarks. 

Of course, a man with such a long history in such a unique niche of entertainment, Nye had many fun anecdotes to share. He revealed that he once won a Steve Martin look-alike contest, which gave him a push to pursue stand-up comedy and finally blend his passion for science with live entertainment. The audience could probably have spent hours digging into his funniest and favourite memories of performing, but unfortunately they couldn’t take up Nye’s whole evening. 

Of the various issues facing humanity and the planet today, the conversation focused around the climate crisis and resulting effects. Nye touched upon topics like Alberta’s dependence on oil and gas, and renewable energy options that he likes and dislikes for various, scientifically sound reasons. 

Quite a few questions narrowed in on his opinion about what students should be focusing their studies on or doing right now to make the most impact. Overall, Nye’s main message focused on his strong encouragement for the generations that make up university classes right now to keep thinking bigger. 

The biggest takeaway of the evening, a theme that runs from Nye’s career beginnings to his hope and belief in innovations of the future, can be summed up in a few of his own words from the event: “Just get started. Start on something … and you will find your way. Everybody you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

Image courtesy of SAMU.

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