We might know Bill Nye as “Bill Nye the Science Guy,“A title he earned while hosting the 1990s children’s TV show of the same name on PBS (where he wore a lab coat, collared shirt and bow tie). The science educator grew up in the alongside his audience and will return to the small screen with an urgent new message. Nye is ready to welcome The end is Nyea new series airing on Peacock on August 25. Each episode centers on a disaster – from hurricanes to volcanoes – and how we can survive, prepare for, and perhaps prevent them.
The series is created by Seth MacFarlane, an actor best known for creating the animated series family guy; Brannon Braga, who has already written two star trek movies; and Nye, who recently hosted a Netflix show called Bill Nye save the world.
“Right now our world is a very scary place yet full of opportunity to improve lives for all of us – for everyone on Earth,” Nye told Shondaland in a recent interview. “The big idea behind The end is Nye is that for the first time in the history of our planet, we humans can control our destiny. We can see the potential for these overwhelming disasters, and we have the means to avoid them. With science, we can change the world.
Don’t expect didactic lectures in this show; the segments all unfold with a green screen, showing terrifying “what if” scenarios. In one segment, he’s drenched in a rainstorm; in another, he rides a dizzying escalator into the eye of a hurricane.
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Nye makes science accessible and easy to understand for the average viewer. It also makes it fun. It all started in Seattle, where he worked as a mechanical engineer for Boeing in the 1970s. Nye then got into stand-up comedy as a side gig, which led him to become a writer and performer. on a local sketch show called Almost live!, where he did scientific experiments. This opportunity led him to host Bill Nye the Scientistthe Emmy-winning television show that ran from 1993 to 1999, and it has since become the poster child for science in pop culture today.
Nye is currently CEO of the space defense organization Planetary Societyposition he has held since 2010. He has written numerous books (the most recent being the 2017 Everything at once) and starred in a documentary about his life titled Bill NyeScientist, which is on Netflix.
“We can change the world!” Nye is repeatedly cited as a tireless defender of science. His work is never done. But his slogan has new meaning today, with a recent science deniers peak who have been promoting science misinformation since the pandemic hit in 2020. Nye talks with Shondaland about climate change, climate deniers and working with the biggest green screen ever.
NADJA SAYEJ: When the episodes premiered at the Tribeca Festival, you said to the audience, “We’re living at this turning point.” Can you elaborate?
BILL NYE: If we embrace science and facts, we can change the world. If we ignore science and facts, we will be in trouble. Our economy will collapse; the quality of life of many of our fellow citizens will decline. We don’t want to do that! We want to embrace science and technology that we can use with our scientific understanding of the world and, dare I say it, change the world!
NS: On the filming side, what makes it different? Did you like the adventure side?
NOT : Well, that was the biggest green screen I’ve ever worked on. This thing was the size of four billboards on the freeway. You may be disoriented while walking around, unable to pick up physical objects. Then, we recreated a Disaster Institute from an image bank. You have to imagine this from a guy telling the story; you have to imagine that these things are real.
NS: There are six episodes. What can we expect to experience on the show?
NOT : Many people will remember Hurricane Katrina; it was a category 5 hurricane – huge damage, people displaced. There are Category 6 hurricanes; so far they have only happened at sea. What if someone lands? What if more than one disembarked at the same time? Then people talked about the volcanic soils we have at Mount Vesuvius in Italy. What if the volcano exploded again? These are all real potential problems. Another sci-fi thing is an asteroid coming – which wiped out the ancient dinosaurs. The nucleus of a comet is like an asteroid. Everything is based on science. If we saw one coming, what would we do? Six disasters. In the first half hour of every show, I get killed. The second half hour, I’m back! If we had science, we could save the world.
NS: The idea of the show is to scare people, right?
NOT : Seth MacFarlane, who is one of the executive producers, says: “The conservative media is so popular. People watch because they scare people; they scare people – we have to scare people. We made an effort to scare people. It is a thing of human nature. When things are going well, we watch romantic comedies. When things are anxiety-provoking, we watch anxiety-provoking movies. It’s a strange thing.
NS: What are you most worried about for the future right now?
NOT : Climate change. This stuff of the sun having part of its outer layer magnetically flapping around and throwing a bunch of charged particles towards the Earth. The moving particles create a magnetic field which interacts with the earth’s magnetic field; then, all the lights go out. Man, that would be a real drag. There would be nothing you could do to stop it. But we could do a lot to prepare for it.
NS: What do you think of science education today?
NOT : The teaching of sciences is correct, especially at very high levels. Prestigious universities continue to graduate these extraordinary scientists and engineers, etc. Elementary students are interested in science. Our problem seems to be in the middle years, where people get science teachers to address this or that way of seeing the world to students when they are impressionable. The other problem we have is this crazy, relentless anti-science movement. This is where people do their own research on the Internet, and [they think] it is the same as an expert who has studied it for years and years, who understands what he is talking about. This is a big concern. That’s part of the reason for doing this show. Make people realize the great value of science.
NS: A lot of research has been done in the series?
NOT : We have experts. The hurricane show, we have climatologists. [For the episode about] the coronal mass ejection, where the sun throws particles, we have astronomers. We also have agronomists, people who study the soil. They were happy to be involved; they were excited. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world. We received expert advice.
NS: Do you think science has to be entertaining for people to pay attention to it?
NOT : Science has always been entertaining. I always tell teachers that when you teach science you have props – you can blow things up, people! Go on! Science has always been entertaining and fun. People who missed this, I feel bad for you, man. For me, it was always exciting. It’s still my favorite subject.
NS: For those who take you literally and want to save the world, what do you have to say to budding scientists who look up to you?
NOT : Well, I always say if you want to save the world, do something. Just start; do positive things. If you want to be specific, vote. You must vote. When you vote, consider the environment and basic research. Don’t vote for people who don’t want to fight climate change. Don’t vote for people who don’t want to fund basic research. Vote for others. And if you’re too young to vote, harass the adults in your life until they vote. Ha!
Nadja Sayej is a New York-based arts and culture journalist who has written 5 books, including biennial bitch and The celebrity interview book.
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