When Bill Nye was studying engineering at Cornell University, he took astronomy under none other than Carl Sagan. In the past, Nye has said that Sagan gave his lectures just as he presented the iconic television series Cosmos, and as an aspiring science educator himself, Nye was hugely inspired. So what are his fondest memories of the legendary cosmologist? There are two: one is Nye’s favorite — where he convinced Sagan to make a monumental music choice regarding the 1977 Voyager golden record — and the other is his most important, when Sagan put him on the path to success with advice that formed the core of the Bill Nye the Science Guy show.

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Transcript: Hello Bill Nye the science guy. I am a guy, a YouTuber named Wesley and I wanted to ask you,since Carl Sagan was your mentor if I’m not mistaken, what is your fondest memory with your mentor, Carl Sagan? Take care and have a good day.

Bill Nye: So, my fondest memory with Carl Sagan—the fondest might be different from the most important. The fondest memory is: we were in class in the spring of 1977, just a few months before the Voyager spacecrafts were launched in August of that year. And these are the spacecrafts that have the golden disk, the record, phonograph record mounted on the side of them with the presumption that an alien civilization will find this, decode the resonance of the hydrogen atom binary symbology and figure out how to play a phonograph record from Earth at the right speed. It’s an extraordinary idea but it was cool. It was inspirational. It brought out the best in a lot of us. And Carl Sagan said, “What rock and roll song should we put on?” And he said, “We’re considering Roll Over Beethoven by Chuck Barry. And everybody said “No, Professor Sagan, no, not ‘Roll Over’. It’s a fine song but the song you want is Johnny B. Goode. Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry.” And so that is the song that is on the record, and that is a fond memory.

I may have led the charge, but I was in – my older sister listened to that music. She was from that time, of doo-wop and the beginnings of rock and roll. So I was very familiar with Chuck Berry and I thought “That’s great.” And so he changed it. Chuck Berry, Johnny B. Goode is the one that’s flying out into space on two spacecraft.

Than the most important memory I had with Carl Sagan, there’s no question—it was ten years later. I went to my college reunion in 1987 and I arranged with Carl Sagan’s assistant to spend about five minutes with him, maybe it was ten minutes which was a big – he was a superstar by then. He had done Cosmos. He was being asked to speak all the time. He had written these great books, award-winning books. And I asked him, I wanted to do this kids’ show about science, “What should I do? I’ve been doing demonstrations about bridges—“ and he says, “No, no, no. Don’t do engineering. Do science.” And then he said, “Kids resonate to pure science.” That was the verb he used – resonate. And that really stuck with me.

So if you ever watch the old Bill Nye The Science Guy shows we did our best to use, to show you pure science rather than technology. And the show we did about computers (which is nominally a show about technology) I did my best to focus on the big ideas: switches and binary and commands that take place without a human having to sit there and tap the button.

So that meeting with Carl Sagan in the end of May 1987 changed my life.

So the fondest memory was Johnny B. Goode. The most important one was resonate to science.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Carl Sagan changed my life. And Bill Nye destroyed my life. Bill you destroyed science. How are we supposed to convince people that Climate Change is a serious issue, when you destroy all scientific credibility with this genderfluid nonsense. I hope the Feminislam alliance had a knife to your throat, and that's why you betrayed science and lied to the world about gender. There are 2 genders Bill. Shame on you. We trusted you. Carl Sagan you are not. Why did Sagan and Hitchens have to die? Why couldn't it have been you Bill? Your SJW narrative is going to cause so many deaths by islamic terrorists and antifa sjw terrorists, their blood will be on your hands to. 2017, the year science died.

  2. hey bill to know johnny be good is floating through space is awesome and super americana. well done back in the 70s. and i watched BN the science guy growing up loved it. thank you

  3. Carl Sagan helped change my life, through the watching of Cosmos when I was a kid. He presented everything in a way that continually made me want to learn more, and his enthusiasm for science, astronomy, and space boosted my enthusiasm for it even more. He helped influence me to rid myself of superstitious and supernatural beliefs and embrace the truth and rational evidence that science has to offer. Now when I hear his voice in a video it's like hearing a long lost friend.

  4. My five year old grandson is a huge fan of Bill Nye. He greets me by saying "Science Rules." We both love it…thank you!

  5. Bill, y'all did amazingly well at Bill Nye the Science Guy. You inspired a generation of individuals to grasp hold of their natural love of science and the world around us.

  6. You had the great Carl Sagan as mentor… and we have the gret Bill Nye… one of the best thing is great ideas are not blood related but mind related.
    regards from Italy

  7. I remember the time Carl advocated imprisoning people for differing with the orthodoxy. Oops no, that was just you Bill Nye.

  8. Hello Mr. Nye: I learned a few years back about the Miller/Urey experiment, production of phospholipid bsingle layer when lipids are introduced to volcanic rock, and the discovery of self replicating RNA. My question is, why is the formation of life still a mystery with these experiments and observations in mind? What do we still need to address, and what remains a mystery? Thank you.

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