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Episode 237: Nerdist Podcast
Bill Nye
Nerdist PodcastNerdist Podcast

Nerdist Podcast: Bill Nye

Bill Nye the Science Guy is finally on the podcast! Bill talks about his friendship with Carl Sagan, why science is the best idea EVER and a very special announcement about the return of the Science Guy videos!

And in case you missed it, click here to watch Bill teach Chris how to tie a bow tie! It’s bow-tie-tastic!

Visit for more information on the party to celebrate the Curiosity Rover’s landing on Mars!

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  1. stacy says:

    i really enjoyed this podcast….i live in a region of the world where prior to the internet i did not know about Bill Nye the science guy until now…

  2. BillGarcia says:

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  3. Joy says:

    Did you guys know Bill Nye launched a kickstarter to create a physics game called AERO with GameDesk? One of the reward tiers is for a Bill Nye bow tie!

  4. Angela says:

    Thought you might enjoy the evolution web adventure I made for my students 🙂

    Let me know what you think!!

  5. JP says:

    Bill Nye’s enthusiasm is so endearing. Great show, guys.

    I for one welcome our alien overlords…er…I mean that I for one am glad that humans have been able to follow our curiosity and desire for exploration into space. What essentially started as a Cold War game of “my rocket is bigger than yours” has yielded significant tangible and intangible benefits for mankind.

    It’s what makes us great, dammit! Reaching for the stars > Staying mired in the mud

    We need guys like Bill geeking out on this stuff and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. I’m really happy to hear that he is going to be a part of the Nerdist empire of awesomeness!

  6. StuartB says:

    Podcasts like this make me wish you guys would get one of the BioLogos guys on the podcast sometimes…this episode was awesome!

  7. Jacob McDowell says:

    re: adam_y

    Regarding non-simple diseases, my point was: the “insignifanct” money put toward Curiousity could go toward helping people who are in need of help in order to survive right now. In pointing out that many many people are dying of SIMPLE things – such as dehydration, which you mentioned, i’m showing just how absurd it is such things are not done. If we’re not helping people with water, what are the chances of the same people getting help with horrendously complicated diesases ?

    In my last two sentences, you’ll see the text “my experiences give me sympathy towards those so much worse off than myself.” I think it’s clear by this sentence alone that i’m not referring to myself or the US alone, but rather internationally, as you mentioned. OTOH, I think did a pretty good job of spelling that out overall.


    i realize i asked for some clarity, some clarification regarding this stuff and i’ve been shooting things down. It’s just that i can’t separate my brain from one concept: earth > mars. It seems to me that the farther out we go, the balance of damage done to potential reward creeps more and more into the realm of unreasonable. The money/ignoring dying people aspect is more complicated, because it takes more than money to help others.

  8. Adam_y says:

    IMO, people dying NOW of relatively simple diseases, exposure, and starvation which require no new inventions to solve, might be considered more important than an invention that doesn’t yet exist.

    So what are you going to tell the people who are dying of the relatively and horrendously complicated diseases that aren’t as easily solved by throwing money randomly at it. Sure you may have been homeless, hungry, and even sick but I gaurentee you its not even comparable to some of the humanitarian disasters occuring right now. A sizable of the world’s population have the choice of poison yourself to death or just flat out die of dehydration.

  9. Jacob McDowell says:

    Re: Hammurabi

    * I said they put a sundial on another planet. That alone is the point – not, say, that a sundial was manufactured specifically for the purpose of putting on another planet.

    * I didn’t question the “need” for calibration equipment, which IMO is moot. The money and tangible resources being put toward acuiring accurate data and good science is what i meant to draw attention to.

    * I summed these things up with the word Curiousity because: a) THEY named it that. b) That’s kinda… what it is, at this point, IMO.

    * Quote: “One thing to keep in mind is that, frankly, we already spend a lot on those issues.” My quote: ” “We can do both at once” or similar logic is clearly not valid.” My point is that we COULD (directly) put this 0.48% to something that helps people suffering. But we don’t. Instead, we take this planet’s resources and burn a buttload of fuel right along with it. Economy can’t exist without resources, which, unfortunately, are finite. Pollution is bad.

    * In response your breakdown of the .48% – You first demonstrate the “insignificant” expense of .48% by comparison, then go on to share significant inventions that this .48% has funded. It’s GREAT that NASA came up with this stuff. (Again: “Don’t get me wrong, certain space programs are appropriate for human survival and development. GPS and similar things are not what i am talking about here.”) The point is that IMO the damage done outweighs the benefits gained, given that i’m not against all of NASA’s endeavours, and that places other than NASA have the capacity to invent things. I’m not dismissive of these inventions, but the fact of the matter is that they exist and that, again, IMO, people dying NOW of relatively simple diseases, exposure, and starvation which require no new inventions to solve, might be considered more important than an invention that doesn’t yet exist. Now, of course, if the future-invention is a cure for cancer or something, things get more complicated. (If you wrap up all of the public-sector inventions NASA is responsible for, and compare that to all of the funding NASA has gotten, what does that picture look like ?)

    Ultimately though, the argument i took a stab at making has little to do with economy, federal budget, tax revenue, capitalism, or the USA. 2.5 billion (for this trip alone) may be tiny for the US economy, and it may even help our economy. But we’re living far better lives than most of the world. How would the cost of just one of these trips benefit the billion-plus starving people on this planet ? I’m thinking that food may be just as important to them as ear themometers, improved dialisys machines, etc are to us. (food vs better kidney help, oral vs ear thermometer, cleaner vs no water, fireproofing vs homeless, enriched baby food vs, well, you get the idea.)

    In asking these questions and sharing these things, i am presenting a different perspective, backed by a different set of opinions and ideals. Being poor, sick, and hungry, and having been homeless, my experiences give me sympathy towards those so much worse off than myself. Ironically, these differences in opinions and ideals make me feel like i’m on the wrong planet a good chunk of the time 🙂

  10. @Chris
    I see. Well here I was thinking I was Fred when it turns out I was Shaggy. #WorstMysterySolverEver Awesome that the epidsode is getting so much attention!

    Well put, sir! You kinda made me want to write my congressman.

  11. Hammurabi says:

    Re: Jacob McDowell.

    I’ve seen these kind of arguments pretty frequently so I hope I can offer some clarity. First things first: they didn’t add a sundial to the rovers, they used something already on the rover as a sundial. Secondly, the calibration equipment is necessary in order for all the video equipment on board the rover to take accurate data and allow for good science, elsewise all that video equipment that they spent so mush time and money on will be no good to anyone.

    So then, why spend the money and time on “curiosity” and not on “disease, homelessness, crime, hunger, education, and so many other things that effect the MAJORITY of THIS planet” as you put it? One thing to keep in mind is that, frankly, we already spend a lot on those issues. Like a whole lot. Looking just at the U.S. Federal budget: “Income Security” which includes tax breaks for the poor, food programs and the like makes up 14.5% of the U.S. budget. Medicare makes up another 22% and Social Security 20% more. Education makes up a paltry 2.8%, and law enforcement makes up another 1% (remember this is at the Federal level, the states spend much more). Compare all this to the entire NASA budget, of which Curiosity is a sizable but by no means a majority chunk: less than one half of 1%, or 0.48% of the Federal budget. Now I certainly can, and would, make arguments for why we should be spending more in many of these areas, but we should both be able to agree that cutting the Curiosity probe from NASA’s budget would be a huge blow to space science, but an insignificant boon to these other areas.

    So what do we get for our 0.48%?

    Improved Dialysis machines
    Artificial limb technology
    Fireproofing materials
    Enriched baby food (yeah, really)
    Ear thermometers (instead of oral or anal)
    Solar power technologies
    Water purifiers
    Improved battery technology

    These are just a tiny handful of NASA patented inventions that made their way into the public sector and made huge improvements to the quality of life of Americans and around the world. Because NASA has huge and novel problems to solve they have to come up with novel solutions to those problems, and because NASA is (most of the time) a very goal oriented organization those problems must be solved, they cannot be set aside in favor of easier issues.

    So, that’s a lot of bang for our buck. I would argue that with less than half of one percent of our federal budget, NASA affects more positive change in the daily lives of the U.S. populace than that same amount of money distributed among social programs would. But here’s the thing, I don’t have to make that argument. These NASA inventions become big (sometimes very big) U.S. industries. In fact, the amount of money we spend on space pales in comparison to the size of expansion of the U.S. economy due to the NASA-inspired industries, and that expanded economy means more tax revenue coming into the treasury. This means that ultimately, spending money on NASA (and science funding in general) instead of social programs could actually have a net effect of increasing the money available for social programs as well, due to the increased tax base.

    Here’s the bottom line: Many beautiful arguments could be made for NASA. It inspires us, It leads us to greater things, it fulfills the innate human desire to explore and discover, it intimate connects us to our universe and to the fabric of reality itself. However, many times those arguments fall on deaf ears and NASA becomes an easy target for those looking to trim the fat from the budget, and it shouldn’t. Because whatever you think of the mission of NASA, the numbers don’t lie: NASA just makes sense.

  12. Jacob McDowell says:

    I don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, certain space programs are appropriate for human survival and development. GPS and similar things are not what i am talking about here.

    I find it foolish that money and fuel is put toward putting sundials and color-calibrated items on other planets. I know that’s not the big picture, but i’ll punctuate this idea with one word: Curiosity.

    Bill compared the cost to taxpayers to that of a cup of coffee. Is that really the cost ? That only considers the taxpayers’ input. There are also materials taken from the earth to manufacture these things, some of which can never be used again. Why is it OK that these materials, in addition to the massive amounts of fuel used, is put to use out of curiosity ? Is knowing about bacteria on another planet more important than disease, homelessness, crime, hunger, education, and so many other things that effect the MAJORITY of THIS planet ? After all, those involved with and interested in curiosity-based space exploration certainly represents a minority interest, funded by a minority.

    I know this is awfully non-nerdy of me, but what can i say, i’m quite jaded what with my going hungry and without medical care despite a disability and all. But go ahead, spend billions per trip for such things as Curiousity.

    PS: If there’s a reason to do this more important than things along the lines of what’s listed above, PLEASE do me a favor and let me know. ( “We can do both at once” or similar logic is clearly not valid.)

    PPS: I’m not utopian, i just keep hearing things like “this is the greatest country on earth” and “humans are really smart”… Prioritization, well within our intellect, shouldn’t be limited to utopian thoughts.

  13. Brad O says:

    Chris, i didnt read through the rest of the comments, but the guy who jumped from the air balloon was John Kittenger. He was part of the Excelsior program, been reading as much as I can about him for some time now. What a baller!

  14. gary says:

    I always thought that Rufus from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was the American Doctor.

  15. Randall says:

    Podcast totally made my day as I too currently work for Boeing and it makes it even more awesome knowing someone like Bill Nye used to work for this company and for all I know, my uncle may have worked with him as well.

  16. Holy shit @Rogue that’s awesome!!! Please continue to be a brainiac.

  17. Rogue says:

    During the podcast, I was geeking out over the fact that Bill Nye did comedy as well as aerospace engineering (like me!) and THEN he talks about Elon Musk. And I might be working for his super special space company in a couple months.

    Small. World. Mind. Blown. I loved this podcast for too many personal reasons. But thank you anyways!!!