Bill Nye 'The Science Guy' reveals funny encounters with fans, how many bow ties he owns

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” has plenty on his mind these days.

The 64-year-old teamed up with Toshiba and the National Science Teachers Association to honor the national winners of this year’s ExploraVision competition, the world’s latest K-12 science contest. The competition encourages students to develop a passion for science at a young age, as well as develop creative ideas touching on medical safety, environmental preservation and energy power.

The celebrated educator believes now more than ever is an exciting time for parents to help spark that inspiration right at home. It has come a long way since his days filming the popular TV series, which aired from 1993 until 1998.

Nye spoke to Fox News about ExploraVision, the funniest encounter he’s ever had with a fan and how many bow ties he owns at this point.

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Fox News: What’s the funniest encounter you've ever had with a fan?
Bill Nye: Funniest? I mean, people would want me to sing the theme song of the show. I have to point out that I don't sing the song. If you're of a certain age, Gilligan didn't sing the song of “Gilligan's Island.” Gayle King doesn't sing the CBS “This Morning” song. But I'm more than happy to say "Inertia is a property of matter.”

Fox News: How many bow ties do you have at this point?
Nye: About 500… People give me ties. They don't wear out. You got to wear a bow tie a lot to get it to wear out, so they just accumulate. I'm in my 60s now. 40, 50 years of bow tie collecting. I don't know, man, I'm playing the hand I was dealt. I don't know why more guys don't wear bow ties. It's just weird. That's all I can tell you, it's weird.

Fox News: How can we make science fun at home for kids?
Nye: How is it not fun? What's more fun than science, people? There's nothing more fun than science. How can you not have fun? The whole thing is I just say, let the kids go, let your kids do stuff, but make sure they clean it up. Don't try to discourage them from just making a mess out of everything, because then you as the parent get frustrated.

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In my experience, once you get kids started, they'll take care of themselves. They'll play and learn on their own. The whole thing is, how to say, to light the fuse and let them go because the things you learn by just messing around. The expression everybody loves is "hands-on." The things you learn by just manipulating things are priceless.

Fox News: What's the most common question you've been receiving from children lately?
Nye: Everybody asks about climate change. Students of all ages are concerned about climate change. They hear about it, they see it coming, and they see people like us, grown-ups, not doing anything about it, so they're concerned. You'll see several of this year's winners are addressing that.

Fox News: What’s one thing we can do to address climate change, especially if we don't know where to begin?
Nye: Vote. Everybody has to vote. If you're a kid and you can't vote, make sure your parents or the grownups in your life vote. There are policy things that governments around the world could be doing that we're just not doing and kids of all ages are mystified by this: "Why aren't you addressing this, grownups? What's going on with you, grownups? You're saying one thing and doing something else.” Get everybody to vote.

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One of the problems we have with climate change is this idea that was introduced with the anti-littering campaign. This is 50 years ago: "Every litter bit hurts," where you say, "What can I do about pollution and litter?" Well, don't litter. This is a huge thing. It turns out most of the individual pieces of litter are cigarette butts, so don't throw your cigarette butts away.

This is where individual action makes a huge difference, but in the case of climate change, individual actions are not as significant. They're not insignificant, but recycling water bottles is good. One of the winners this year has this cool idea of using microbes to recycle polyethylene terephthalate plastic. Individual actions are important, but we need big changes.

Fox News: What advice would you give to parents right now?
Nye: Focus on time. You don't know when you're going to have this interaction that's going to be extremely influential or get a kid excited, get a student excited. Just be around. As I say when it comes to the summer and science, just light the fuse. That's a metaphor. Just get people started and make sure they clean it up at the end and you'll see, they'll make discoveries. As I say all the time, grow something. You meet so many people who've never watched a plant grow. A sunflower is an amazing plant. It'll grow in a few weeks and it will follow the sun. It's amazing.

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Fox News: Virtual learning is a hot topic right now. What challenges do you feel America's teachers are going to face as they adapt to this new model and how can they make it work?
Nye: Well, we're all doing our best. In 1917, '18, '19, during the Spanish Flu, there was a big gap in people's educations and we got through it. I think what's going to happen is there'll be emerging a group, or, I guess the expression is "cohort" of students who have very different experiences.

It's very reasonable to me that what we'll end up doing accidentally is producing a cohort of students who don't know as many facts as maybe we all hoped they would when they started their academic careers, but are actually better at science than they would have been because they had to entertain themselves and figure stuff out for themselves this summer. When there's no summer camp, you'll find something to do when you're a kid. Just wear a mask, everybody. They make a difference. Wear a mask.

Fox News: Is there a science or experiment that's really been exciting you lately?
Nye: I’m excited about the future of electricity production. You may have heard of cold fusion. Cold fusion is a myth. There's nothing to do with anything, it's just guys using thermometers wrong. But there's another idea that's extent right now called very, very hot fusion.

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Instead of trying to drive protons into hydrogen atoms with extra neutrons, they're physicists trying to use boron and hydrogen gas to make a lot of heat very quickly with no radiation. If you have a lot of heat, you can make steam and drive a turbine and make electricity. If we had almost unlimited electricity, if we had 10 times as much electricity as we have now produced renewably, we would change the world. We would be able to raise the standard of living for everybody. That's what I'm really excited about.

The other thing I'm excited about is just writ large, farming. Agricultural technologies are emerging and getting more and more sophisticated and enabling us to feed more and more people and provide protein to more and more people in a less stressful way, less stressful on the environment. It hasn't happened yet, but I can see it coming. These incremental changes are going to be able to feed the world. It's exciting.

Fox News: What was it about this year’s ExploraVision winners that spoke to you?
Nye: Well, keep in mind, this is my 17th year of doing ExploraVision, so I'm a big believer in ExploraVision. Every year, the students are amazing. This year is no exception. I think if you look at the first and second-place winners in four categories, you'll see that they're almost all of them very interested in the environment and physical health, so that's cool. Every year, it's amazing.

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What’s unique about it is you have to work in a team. That's a rule. You have to work together, just like real life. You have to come up with an invention. You think will come into existence in 20 years and really, they're crushing it. They do really well.

Fox News: Which winner stunned you with your idea the most and why?
Nye: With respect, nobody stunned me, but every one of them is amazing. Just the topics that kids choose to address just show you how aware students are of the world around them. Many grownups like to dismiss young people.

Socrates complained about the youth of today several thousand years ago, but it shows you how aware students are of the environment and of health issues and the inefficiencies in our society that they want to address using emerging technologies that they research, produce a presentation and, and submit it by the rules in a format. That's their rules. These are all fantastic skills for students of any age to learn.