Bill Nye

Bill Nye

Grab your lab coat, and don your best bow tie. (With R. Bowen Loftin as our chancellor, you must have one by now.) Bill Nye is coming to Mizzou.

The popular scientist, engineer, comedian, author and inventor is bringing his wit and enthusiasm to Jesse Auditorium Saturday, March 15, as part of the 10th annual MU Life Sciences & Society Symposium.

This year’s symposium theme is “Decoding Science,” with an aim to improve the dialogue between scientists and the public and foster a more scientifically literate society.

Other speakers include Rebecca Skloot, author of the best-seller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Sean B. Carroll, an award-winning scientist, author and educator who writes “Remarkable Creatures,” a regular feature for the The New York Times science section.

Funny business

Nye, whose Emmy-winning 1990s show Bill Nye the Science Guy is beloved by kids and adults, is king of using comedy to demystify tough topics. After all, he is the guy who explained archaeology using layer cake and demonstrated probability with his giant coin-flipping machine, the “Flipmaster 50/50.”

Although he’s well-known for his goofy persona, Nye’s résumé is no joke:

  • He has a degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, where he studied under Carl Sagan.
  • He regularly visits Cornell to teach as a visiting professor.
  • He has patents for a magnifier made of water, an abacus that does arithmetic like a computer and an improved pointe shoe for ballerinas.
  • He won seven Emmy Awards for writing, producing and hosting Bill Nye the Science Guy. The show won a total of 18 Emmys in five years.
  • Energy conservation is one of his hobbies, and he is in friendly competition with his neighbor in Los Angeles to see who can produce the smallest carbon footprint.
  • He helped develop MarsDials, sundials used in missions to Mars.
  • He is the author of five science-related children’s books.
  • He is executive director of The Planetary Society, the world’s large space interest organization.

Nye has also been in the spotlight recently, engaging in public conversations about climate change and evolution, guest-starring on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory and competing (in his signature bow tie) on Dancing With the Stars.

A decade of discovery

Tickets to see the Science Guy at MU were gone less than an hour after they became available, helping make Decoding Science the most participated-in Life Sciences & Society Symposium yet. In recent years approximately 750‑1000 people have attended each symposium’s keynote address. Nye’s talk is expected to fill the 1,755-seat Jesse Auditorium.

The first symposium in 2004 focused on the human genome and public policy. Other themes have included food, ethics and the brain and kin, each promoting an emerging field of interdisciplinary research.

In addition to speakers, other affiliated events help engage the Columbia community as well as the Mizzou population:

  • Exhibit: “Superhero Science! Fact and Fiction in Superhero Comics”
  • Talk: “Everything is Toxic: Do We Need Superheroes or Historical and Scientific Literacy to Survive in a Toxic World?” by Dr. Tim Evans, associate professor of toxicology in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Conversation: “The Thoughts of Plants,” led by Dr. Jack Schultz and sponsored by Science Cafe Columbia.
  • Interactive theater performance:  “Dialogues about Breast Cancer,” performed by Mizzou Interactive Theatre Troupe
  • For kids: K-5 children can collect secret message cards at the Bond Life Sciences Center and visit more than 15 hands-on science and engineering challenge booths on campus to decode the message.