I’ve met Bill Nye, the man who bills himself as the “Science Guy”. He indeed seems to be one smart fella. In fact I felt like an idiot just standing next to him. For those three, maybe four people in America who don’t know who he is the 60-year old scientist turned entertainer is one of those who makes science fun, and to me that’s not a bad thing at all. After all we need science to help us in many ways. Ways such as curing diseases, growing more food, or making sure a comet doesn’t strike the Earth and send us the way of the dinosaurs.
Of course, if a comet did hit the Earth at least I could get out of having to file my tax returns.
Mr. Nye has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering he earned in 1972 but has billed himself as someone who knows a great deal about all things scientific. He is most often seen wearing a bow tie and a lab coat and, well, looking pretty smart. Yet beyond the appearance of being a smart guy, there is not much to indicate that he really in fact is a smart guy.
That’s not to say that his love of all things scientific and his entertaining ways are bad. Indeed, making science fun and interesting for all of us dumb people allows the real scientists to do whatever it is they do to cure sickness, give us more food, or keep us from becoming nothing more than fossils.
This week however, Mr. Nye stepped upon ground scared to many Americans; the world of big time stock car auto racing otherwise known as NASCAR. In a blog post, and oddly just in time to promote his latest book, Mr. Nye says NASCAR should abandon the gas guzzling machines they race most of the year in favor of electric cars.
Now according to Mr. Nye he has experienced the world of NASCAR. He claims his mother is from Durham North Carolina and has family in the area. Mr. Nye said he has been to a NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway and by all indications seemed to find the experience quite exhilarating.
However, Bill Nye the Science Guy has a problem.
According to him, a NASCAR that celebrates gasoline-powered engines is a sport that celebrates the past.
“Here I am trying to envision the smart, efficient transportation technology of tomorrow, and there is NASCAR celebrating a very old transportation technology of yesterday,” Mr. Nye writes. “You might call NASCAR the anti-NASA.”
It is true that hybrid cars are gaining favor in automotive America. As a part time car reviewer I have tested many such machines, both hybrid and fully electric and found the modern ones very capable on the road; I just don’t want one in my driveway. It is also true that there is a racing series, the Formula E series, which has its fans. However to think that a sport built on powerful gasoline engines would simply abandon them in favor of battery powered racecars makes one wonder just what Mr. Nye has been putting in his test tubes.
There of course would be some positives; fans could actually talk to each other in the stands during a race given silent running of a battery powered car. Also we could all enjoy several nice long breaks during a race while the cars are plugged in and recharging.
NASCAR has done a great deal to go Green. With ethanol fuels and awareness when it comes to such things as recycling, NASCAR is doing what it can to help Mother Earth. To say, as Mr. Nye does, that they are the “anti-NASA” though is like comparing Madonna to an opera singer, or the Rolling Stones to the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.
It just doesn’t make any sense.
The only thing NASA about NASCAR is the one time a certain driver lit some bottle rockets and shot them at some folks while stumbling about in a drunken stupor, but that is a story best left for another time.
We should embrace many of the things Mr. Nye puts forth. Making science fun is a very good thing. And we should all appreciate whatever it is that scientists do. But to say that we should suddenly abandon the past is like saying we should forget about Gettysburg or the last time Patriots won a Super Bowl without cheating (allegedly).
No matter how far we go as a species we must never forget where it is we came from. Sure, a separate electric stock car race might be fun, and quiet, until the batteries ran out (maybe we could use some really long extension cords). But a sport built on gasoline engines should remain that way, at least until the day gasoline powered cars are banned on public roads (and no I don’t see that ever happening either).
I would like to invite Mr. Nye the Science Guy back to Martinsville. Heck, I’ll even buy him a famous Martinsville hot dog or three, although truth be told I am sure they are not gluten free, nor is the slaw.
I hope Mr. Nye sells a lot of books . And I hope that the scientists, and Bill Nye the Science Guy, continue to do whatever it is they do. Let’s keep science fun, but let’s keep it out of NASCAR.
If you’ll excuse me now, I don’t think we have to worry about a comet hitting the Earth which means I have to go get ready to file my income taxes.