Tom Schad, USA TODAY
Published 9: 20 a.m. ET Jan. 30, 2020 | Updated 9: 23 a.m. ET Jan. 30, 2020
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Bill Nye said he was going through security at an airport recently when a Transportation Security Administration employee pulled him aside and asked him a question.
“Is the world flat?” the TSA agent whispered.
“No!” Nye replied. “Dude.”
The 64-year-old Nye has spent much of his life spreading the gospel of science, first as the host of “Bill Nye The Science Guy” and more recently as the CEO of The Planetary Society. So perhaps it’s no surprise that his second appearance in a Super Bowl commercial, in a 30-second ad for SodaStream, is set on Mars — and for a product that ostensibly helps the environment.
Nye said he’s genuinely passionate about SodaStream; he has two of the carbonated water machines at home, two more at his office and has given away more than a dozen as gifts. And while he’s not pretending that the product is a grand solution to climate change, he does sincerely believe carbonating water in a reusable bottle, rather than buying new bottles or cans, does make a difference.
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“I’m taking the SodaStream marketing people’s word for it,” he said, “but they claim it’s over 1.6 billion — with a ‘B’ — plastic bottles that have not entered the waste stream because people are using SodaStream instead.”
Nye said he’s baffled by those who continue to deny the existence of climate change, that something like reusing plastic bottles is important, just as he’s troubled by the TSA employee who asked him about the shape of Earth. (“I’m looking for a word that’s not mean-spirited to describe this stuff,” he said. “It’s just got to go away.”)
While he believes “the pendulum will swing” back toward a widespread trust in, and celebration of, scientists in the United States, he admitted he’s worried about the lack of faith that some people have in experts at this particular moment. Tremendously.
“It’s the downside — it’s the ‘what went wrong’ — with social media,” Nye said. “Everybody’s voice on the internet, and certain aspects of social media, looks like they’re the same. NASA’s web page looks no different than IAmCrazy.com’s web page. So it’s very troubling. And objectively, the current administration has done nothing but make it worse.”
Nye previously endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee before the Washington governor suspended his campaign. He stopped short of taking big swings at any politicians, but he did note that the U.S. Constitution expressly mentions that one of the jobs of Congress is to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”
“Some people say, ‘Well that’s only about copyrights, that has nothing to do with the larger picture of science,'” Nye said. “And people on my side go, ‘What are you talking about? They went to the trouble of using the word science in the Constitution, for crying out loud! It was important to them.'”
While happy to expound on those broader topics, Nye eventually turned back to SodaStream. This will be the company’s first Super Bowl commercial since 2014, and Nye’s second appearance in a Super Bowl ad. He was also in a commercial for Persil laundry detergent in 2017. And he doesn’t take the experience for granted.
“I mean, a freaking Super Bowl ad, man?” Nye said. “What (else) do you want out of life? It’s cool.”
Contact Tom Schad at email@example.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.