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Latest edition: Season 2, Episode 10: "Independence Day: Resurgence"

Episode Details

Original tape date: February 4, 2016.

First aired: June 10, 2016.

In episode #210 of Science Goes to the Movies, Bill Nye – educator, author, television personality, and CEO of The Planetary Society – joins the show to talk about disaster movies, including Independence Day: Resurgence, released in June 2016.

The discussion begins with The Golden Record, created by Carl Sagan and sent into space by NASA for intelligent extraterrestrial life forms to discover and learn about life on Earth. Nye tackles the question of whether inviting the attention of extraterrestrial life forms is wise, given the type of violent invasion stories depicted in movies like Independence Day: Resurgence, and offers his sense of the probability of the existence of such life forms given the presence of 200 billion stars in the Milky Way as well as the likelihood of them being dangerous. Then he breaks down the value of the experience of putting together The Golden Record and how it got people thinking of what it is about ourselves that we would like to share.

The next question is whether an event such as a massive alien invasion is the only way we’ll see the people of the world come together in harmony. Nye suggests we may be able to get to that point through more peaceful means, and points to the fact, explained in his book Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, that all of humankind is from east Africa and the creation of different races is simply a matter of differing exposure to ultraviolet light. Then he shares the advice he gives to children – that embracing science is empowering and brings about a view of the big picture.

The inability of people to fathom the apocalypse, even despite its constant appearance in film and television, serves as the basis for a discussion about The Five Stages of Climate Change Grief, and Bill Nye’s Global Meltdown, his National Geographic Channel show that describes these stages. The situation in Miami, and the infrastructural choices being made there in anticipation of dramatically rising sea levels, is explored as an example of the acceptance stage.

The way in which science, and the advent of the steam engine and industrialization generally, got us into the mess of climate change is considered next, as well as how science is also the only way out of it. While the Earth’s climate has changed before, Nye explains that what’s alarming at the moment is the speed of the change. Then he shares the kinds of technical solutions that are being explored, including carbon capture technologies. The use of entertainment to help people digest the circumstance is then assessed as fundamental to the process of bringing about improvement.

Dr. Berlin explores the “depression” stage of climate change using the analogy of a famous experiment by Martin Seligman that helped explain what’s called Learned Helplessness. Voting for green candidates and the imposition of a carbon fee are a couple climate change correctives that are discussed next. To finish, Nye shares his idea of a disaster film plot with a plausible happy ending.

Written and Produced by Lisa Beth Kovetz.

Science Goes to the Movies is made possible by generous support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Guest List

Web Extras

Nye's Plan for Global Warming

Bill Nye explains why he's hopeful about our ability to address climate change.

Bill Nye on Race

Bill Nye and the hosts discuss whether humans can evolve away from racially based behavior.

Why We Love Disaster Movies

Bill Nye and the hosts discuss why people are obsessed with watching disaster movies.