“Explosions.” That’s what Isabelle Ulrich, 8, of Syosset, said she was hoping to see at the Bill Nye the Science Guy show at NYCB Theatre at Westbury Friday night.
After all, Nye is a famous scientist, a sometimes wacky one at that. Which meant he’d do experiments. Which meant, to Isabelle, the alluring possibility of things blowing up.
Well, things weren’t QUITE that exciting during Nye’s 90-minute appearance. But third-grader was thrilled to be called up as a volunteer to hold a burning candle while Nye used what he called “the vortex generator of science” to puff it out from across the stage.
The set of the show looked like a mad scientist’s lair: a skeleton, a nitrogen tank, a shelf unit with beakers of bubbling green liquid and plasma globes that seemed to encompass continuously striking lightning bolts. Nye’s lab table had beakers of yellow and blue liquids, toy dinosaurs, peach roses in a beaker, a plastic pitcher of marshmallows, and a banner that read “Nye Laboratories.” The man himself emerged on stage wearing his signature bowtie and soon donned a blue lab coat.
Other hands-on presentations included dipping a marshmallow into liquid nitrogen and then eating it, which caused steam to billow from Nye’s mouth. “It looks fabulously dangerous,” Nye said of the liquid nitrogen that smoked like a witch’s cauldron. He tossed the liquid across the stage, where it danced across the floor before evaporating.
“None of these demonstrations are magic,” Nye said. And the audience joined in, yelling “It’s science!”
Friday’s show wasn’t just a science class. It was also a history lesson – the history of Bill Nye. “Our story begins with my father,” said Nye, and a screen on the stage filled with a photo of Nye’s dad. He went through his life story, from a photo of himself on the beach with his mom as a toddler, to himself in a 9th grade science class, through engineering school, to his days in Seattle when he worked for Boeing and first tried stand-up comedy, to the genesis of the Bill Nye the Science Guy television show. The series, which ran through the 1990s and is still shown in school classrooms, won 18 Emmy awards.
Nye also taught the audience how to tie a bowtie and showed off a “Dancing With the Stars” photo and his selfie taken with President Obama.
On the serious side, Nye talked about his Planetary Society’s efforts to persuade congress to fund space exploration, urged audience members to take climate change seriously, and promoted his new best-selling book, “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation.”
Nye ended the show with what he has said is his favorite part: Questions from the audience, which had been submitted prior to the show on pieces of yellow paper. They included “Are we alone in the universe?” and “What was your favorite part of appearing on ‘The Big Bang Theory’?” Nye’s answers to those: “I just don’t see how we could possibly be” and “It was my job in one scene to out-deadpan Bob Newhart. It was really cool.”
Stephanie Pierce, 17, of Lake Grove, was one of the Nye fans in the audience. “He’s like our childhood,” she said. “Every single science class we’ve ever been in we watched him.”
Kids weren’t the only ones who came for a night with the pop culture icon. “I grew up with him. He was on my TV every single day,” says Paul Enzinger, 27, a high-school math teacher from East Northport.
“He made science and engineering cool for our generation,” said his wife, Jennifer, 29, a software engineer.