It was only a matter of time before Stargate paid homage to some of today's greatest leaders in the world of science. But we wouldn't have guessed they would be appearing as themselves!Bill Nye
, known to more recent generations as "The Science Guy," guest-starred in a special episode of Atlantis
's fifth season along with friend and colleague Neil deGrasse Tyson in the episode "Brain Storm."
The episode, prominently featured on Earth, dared to address real-world issues. We expand on those thoughts in our exclusive interview with Nye, talking not only about the episode, but climate change. Bill also tells us about his earliest memories of getting involved in science, his buddy Robert Picardo ("Richard Woolsey"
), and being on the cusp of several technological leaps in his field.
GateWorld's interview with Bill Nye runs 38 minutes. Listen online at your leisure, download it to your MP3 player, or subscribe now to the iTunes podcast
! The full interview is also transcribed below.
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net I am David Read and I'm here talking with Mr Bill Nye, dare I say, The Science Guy! Bill, is that something that you're proud of, being known the Science Guy?
Bill Nye: Absolutely!
GW: Or after all these years it's "I wish it would go away!"
BN: Oh, no! No! I'm very, very proud to be the Science Guy! It's an honor! The trouble, the feature, the what I like to call "The Blurse," which is the blessing and the curse, of Bill Nye, is that what you see is what you get. So, when a feller shows up on Stargate Atlantis playing himself, it's not that hard! [Laughter]
I should be able to do that. I say I repeat myself continually anyway, so why not repeat myself with words that are pretty close to what I would have said -- had there been freeze lightening, and the world was ending, and we only had 48 minutes to save it.
It's not easy! 48 minutes saving the world?
GW: No pressure!
BN: Yeah, exactly.
GW: This is one of the things that I wanted to ask you about, Bill. I'm buddies with Martin Gero and I asked him this -- I spoke with him a little while ago, and I said, and in terms of for you, "What is it like receiving a script and having someone basically sticking words in your mouth?"
You're not necessarily playing yourself, you're playing a caricature of yourself. For this script for instance, for "Brain Storm," did you receive this and did you see any one specific line and ask yourself or ask Martin, "Is that how you really see me?! I'm not like that! I don't act like that!"
Nye and colleague Neal deGrasse Tyson on the set of "Brain Storm."
BN: No. I did ask to change a few things, though, and he was very receptive. He was super receptive -- the king of receptivity! He was the Supreme Commander of Receptivity! It was very nice, it was great!
As I say, people perceive me, I think, pretty much the way I am, with a couple of, once in a while there'll be a so--called misqueue, but not from Martin Gero.
He had me making fun of Rodney McKay a little more than I did, and I thought it came out just right. I don't know if you watched the show. You must have, of course you must have.
GW: I've seen it a few times now.
BN: You've memorised it, yes. Where I say, I mutter to myself, "That guy is one odd duck."
GW: Yes, that's right.
BN: That was an ad-lib, and Martin embraced it, and let me say, that sort of crystallises your relationship to Rodney McKay. The guy you love to hate, but he saves the world every week, so what are you gonna do?!
GW: Yeah, but that doesn't change the fact that he's still a real oddball.
BN: He's an odd guy. But, he's hooked up with Keller! Yes!
GW: Of course, Jewel Staite, gotta love her.
BN: I mean, come on!
GW: Now, I've got to tell you Bill, in order to watch Power Rangers when I was growing up, I had to watch Bill Nye first. My Dad would not let me watch my show until I watched his show, and eventually his show became my show as well.
It only took I think two episodes before I got really hooked. I think I was eight or nine at this point. At least a quarter of the stuff that I know about science I learned from Bill Nye the Science Guy ! Now, aside from the fact it's a real honor to speak with you here, how does it feel knowing you've helped to influence so many kids to have an interest in science?
BN: It's fantastic. With that said, I still don't get it, and every day I say to myself, "I gotta take a second and understand what's going on here." I mean, people come up to me, "Hi, I'm a physician, I'm a doctor because I watched your show." "I'm a mechanical engineer because I watched your show."
GW: Because they watched your show?
BN: Yeah, people say that to me quite often, and how much of it is a result of seeing me personally, physically in the same part of the space--time continuum, the same coordinates, or how much of it is really real? So I think a lot of its real, that's quite a thing for me. It means a great deal to me. I still can't get over it, because that was the goal.
Bill Nye the Science Guy logo
GW: Yeah, well it had to have been!
BN: I wrote a paper, a single sheet of paper, years ago, called "The Rules of the Road." The objective of the show, the first line on "The Rules of the Road" is "Change the World." That's the goal. Maybe we did, maybe we are.
GW: Well, you made, at the very least, helped make science accessible, by explaining it in fundamental terms. I still have a number of episodes; I went back and watched "Buoyancy" the other day.
BN: That's a good show.
GW: Yeah, exactly, you underwater and everything, showing the water line. It all makes sense. Whether I'm eight or whether I'm 25 now, yeah some things are a little fundamental, and you hear the guy going "Uh, Bill, they get it Bill," but it still works, and it's still something I enjoy watching.
BN: Well half the viewers are grownups, so, turn it up loud!
GW: Right! Now what first got you interested in science? I'm sure you've got this question a million times before, but our readers would like to know, Bill!
BN: Here's how I always answer this: I don't remember.
BN: It's before I can remember. I was certainly before I was four; I think it was before I was three years old. These stories aren't really apocryphal, but they're emblematic.
My brother had a chemistry set, and he made ammonia. Then we had litmus paper and it would change color, and that was astonishing. Astonishing I tell you! Then, I remember watching bees. I spent a lot of time watching bees.
GW: Aren't they interesting?
BN: They're astonishing. I spent so much time watching so many bees that I convinced myself I was watching the same individual come and go from a flower, in front of my parent's house. Then I read in "Ripley's Believe it or Not," which was in the Sunday paper, a single frame, it said, "According to aerodynamic theory bumble bees cannot fly." I remember thinking, "That's not a very good theory!" [Laughter]
GW: Yeah, something's missing from the equation.
BN: Because the bees seemed really good at it, better than helicopters. I gotta say, these were big moments for me. The other one, I tell this story often, just as you pointed out, but I had balsa wood aeroplane, which is still made by Guillow's, this company, and it's called "The Sky Streak."
GW: I think I had one!
BN: I'm sure you did. And the advantage of the "Sky Streak" -- it's cheaper than the "Super Streak," but it has no wheels. We were talking this and that, we were talking about boats. If you bent the rudder, the vertical tail, it would curve, so we did that, using steam. I threw it.
Also at this point I was sophisticated enough to lubricate the rubber band motor with dishwashing soap, so you could really crank a lot of knots into that rubber band, and the thing made three turns, circles to the left, and came right back to me, like a cartoon boomerang. I went "That is amazing!"
"'According to aerodynamic theory bumble bees cannot fly.' I remember thinking, 'That's not a very good theory!'"
Then later on I went to college, and I took aerodynamics, I took airplane design, and you can show that when you move the rudder the airplane banks, and so on and so on, so called "coupling." It's astonishing!
GW: Yeah. "It's science!"
BN: You can predict the future. "It's science!" Yes! If you think about how good birds are at this, we are babes in the aerodynamic woods. These moments had a great affect on me.
GW: My father is a helicopter pilot.
BN: Oh, so I'm not telling you anything! [Laughter]
GW: Well, I've been acquainted with aerodynamics. Honestly I don't understand how all of it works. The fact that we can put a helicopter in the air, to this day, still astonishes me. It's so cool.
BN: It is so cool. It's fantastic. With science you can predict the future, with science you can make things that you would not find in nature. Or you'd not find outside of humans, so I've always loved it. Compared with other ways of looking at the world science is pretty good.
GW: Right, it's the method by which we discover more about the world around us, and maybe a little bit about ourselves, too.
BN:: Well, there's a huge market for people and their health. People of all ages are fascinated with their bodies. We learn most of that from science. Can you imagine a time when people didn't really exactly quite believe in germs?! Wow. I mean wow! People didn't believe in blood and circulation, didn't believe -- wow!
I mean, they're slaughtering pigs, chickens, whatever else you might go for for protein, but they never really embraced the idea that blood goes out this way and comes back that way, passing the oxygenated over here. It's amazing!