Events Lectures Top Stories — 29 January 2014

Scientist, engineer, comedian, author and inventor Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is the featured speaker for the 2014 Murray State University Presidential Lecture Series.

The lecture will be held on Monday, Feb. 3, at 8 p.m., in Murray State’s CFSB Center. Admission to the lecture is free. MSU students, faculty and staff, and the general public are encouraged to attend.

Nye considers himself a man with a mission — to help foster a scientifically literate society by helping people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes the world work.

Making science entertaining and accessible is something Nye has been doing most of his life. He discovered he had a talent for tutoring in high school, and spent afternoons and summers de-mystifying math for his fellow students. When he wasn’t hitting the books, Nye was hitting the road on his bicycle. He spent hours taking it apart to “see how it worked.”

Nye’s fascination with how things work led him to Cornell University and a degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation, he headed for Seattle to work as an engineer at Boeing. “There’s a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube on the 747 horizontal stabilizer drive system that I like to think of as my tube,” he said. “I’ve always loved airplanes and flight. The space program was very important to me as a kid.”

It was in Seattle that Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night.

Eventually, he quit his day job and made the transition to comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s ensemble comedy show, Almost Live, where Bill Nye the Science Guy® was born.

Nye has been a part of several award-winning shows, including the one that made him a household name, Bill Nye the Science Guy. While working on the Science Guy show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing and producing. The show won 28 Emmys in five years. In between creating the shows, he has written several kids’ books about science, including Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.

Nye is the host of two currently running television series. The 100 Greatest Discoveries airs on the Science Channel; The Eyes of Nye airs on PBS stations across the country.

Nye was asked to speak at his former professor Carl Sagan’s memorial service and has since moved from being a regular member of the Planetary Society to becoming a member of the board of directors.

Bill Nye’s parents, Ned and Jacquie Nye, fostered Bill’s interest in science. Jacquie was recruited by the Navy to work on secret codes because she was good at science and math. Ned loved gnomonics — sundials, a fascination he developed as a prisoner of war living without electricity for nearly four years. Bill caught that love from his father, eventually relating Mars mission “photometric calibration targets” to sundials. The result? The Spirit and Opportunity Rovers on Mars were both fitted with photometric calibration MarsDials.

Nye has also worked extensively to set up and promote the EarthDial Project, a set of sundials around the world visually reminiscent of the MarsDials and linked together on the web. People everywhere can use the site and the process of building their own sundials to gain a deep understanding of geography, astronomy, and society’s complex system of timekeeping.

Nye has two patents on educational products — a magnifier made of water and an abacus that does arithmetic like a computer. Other patent work includes an improved toe shoe for ballerinas and a device to help people learn to throw a baseball better.

Nye visits his alma mater, Cornell University, regularly as part of the school’s Frank H.T. Rhodes Visiting Professorship.

The Presidential Lecture Series at Murray State is sponsored by the Student Government Association, the president’s office and the MSU Foundation.

Former speakers in the series include Spike Lee, James Carville and Mary Matalin, Ben Stein, Desmond Tutu, Richard Norton Smith, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Benazir Bhutto, Lech Walesa and F.W. deKlerk.


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