Bill Nye was geeking out in his sunny condo in uptown Manhattan.
“I can’t do anything without thinking about the science,” Mr. Nye stated in early April, waving his arms round to make his level. “Look at this scene. We are on a Zoom call, which involves literally millions of transistors that somebody figured out how to manufacture.”
His voice obtained louder and extra excited as he went on: “Then they got the T.T.L., the transistor-transistor logic, figured out so that we can make pictures and form words, and transmit them across the electric internet.”
Wearing his trademark short-sleeved white shirt, clear horn-rimmed glasses and a purple bow tie, Mr. Nye, 65, nonetheless seemed like the previous mechanical engineer who grew to become America’s favourite science instructor in the course of the 1990s, because the host of the PBS present “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”
Watched by tens of millions of schoolchildren (and quite a lot of adults), Mr. Nye taught all the things that there was to know in grade-school science and past, with wacky humor and zany demonstrations. In one episode about static electricity, he wears a heavy-metal rocker wig to point out how negatively charged static makes hair stands up. (“Static electricity — it rocks!” he says.)
Now, 23 years since taping the final present, Mr. Nye has discovered a brand new viewers and a profitable gig as a star pitchman.
It started a couple of 12 months in the past when he posted a 12-second video on TikTok, simply as the primary stay-at-home orders was taking impact throughout the nation. Sitting at his messy kitchen desk, he seems to be finding out one thing beneath a microscope.
“I’m happy at home, just trying to save the world here,” he stated, as he places his eyeglasses on. “You know, it’s not as easy as it looks.” The clip generated greater than 15 million views.
Many views doubtless got here from millennials who grew up watching him distill complicated scientific ideas into quick, fast-paced movies. “It was forced upon me in middle school when the science teacher didn’t want to teach a lesson, and they would roll in the TV on the cart,” stated Ben Brainard, 25, a comic in Orlando, Fla. “The theme song would get stuck into our heads for the rest of our lives.”
“I don’t think people ever really stopped caring about Bill Nye,” Mr. Brainard added. “They just kind of forgot about him in day-to-day life until now.”
In one other standard TikTok video, Mr. Nye demonstrated why we have to wash our hands with soap. “Soap is an amazing substance,” he says. Using a loop of string floating on water to symbolize a coronavirus, he exhibits what occurs when the loop makes contact with cleaning soap: “The molecule falls apart. That’s why you’ve got to wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands!”
Mr. Nye believes that his TikTok movies resonate with millennials partially as a result of the movies are comparable in format to the tv present. “In ‘The Science Guy’ show, we had a hilarious old saying that no bit should exceed 49 seconds,” he stated. “That was part of the charm — the rapid-fire presentation.”
His followers, he added, have been additionally wanting to embrace science at a time when science grew to become politicized.
“We needed one of our role models from our youth to step up and say: These are the facts,” stated Lauran Woolley, 26, a fifth-grade instructor in Canfield, Ohio, who follows Mr. Nye on TikTok. “Sometimes people don’t want to listen to science.”
For Mr. Brainard, it was additionally a matter of credibility. “It was during this time when nobody knew what was happening so they turned to the people they trusted, and for us, that was Bill Nye,” he stated. “I will do anything Bill Nye tells me to do.”
That sense of belief has additionally prompted quite a few manufacturers to strategy Mr. Nye to grow to be their spokesman, particularly manufacturers that need to burnish their dedication to the sciences and local weather change specifically.
“Bill is a world-renowned science educator and environmental advocate, and we are partnering with him to spread awareness,” stated Dani Reiss, the president of Canada Goose, the outside attire firm, which employed Mr. Nye in April to be a sustainability adviser.
Mr. Nye stated he has been approached by three to 4 firms a month in the course of the pandemic however has declined most gives. “I prefer to work with brands that I use,” he stated. “Is that madness?”
One of those firms was Bombay Sapphire gin, which can appear to be an odd alternative for somebody related to a youngsters’s training present. But in 2014 Mr. Nye gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal, through which he revealed that his drink of alternative was a Bombay Sapphire martini. “The Bombay Sappharians came after me after that,” Mr. Nye stated. “I finally said I’ll do it this year.”
On April 9, he posted the primary of three Bombay movies to his three million Instagram followers, a one-and-a-half minute clip through which he extols the “perfect pairing” of Bombay’s new gin-and-tonic in a can. “I don’t want to shock anyone, but I do enjoy a martini,” he says.
Fan reactions have been largely constructive, but additionally blended. “This confirms that the Bill Nye target audience no longer needs to be carded at the bar,” one follower wrote. Others referred to as him a “sellout” and questioned the well being knowledge of selling an alcoholic beverage.
Mr. Nye defends his work by stating one thing most of us take with no consideration. “When I pick up this glass of gin and tonic with the bubbles, I study it,” he stated. “Science is empowering. It helps us appreciate the world around us.”