Science & Tech

Think Cosmically, Act Globally

Bill Nye

Lesson time 17:23 min

Recounting a personal tale about how his father’s love of sundials led to an achievement on Mars, Bill urges you to look to our planetary neighbors both as cautionary tales and as inspiration for the next generation of innovators.

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Topics include: Study the Planets for Insight and Inspiration · Case Study: MarsDials, a Symbol of Hope


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Thanks for watching this far if you did. There's a little bit more. Turn it up loud. Let's keep looking outside the box. Let's look outside the planet. By comparing Earth to our planetary neighbors, we gain valuable insights about our future. It's inspiring for us and for future generations of scientific innovators. Let's take knowledge and inspiration from the cosmos. So there are visionaries who say, well, we'll go live on another planet. We'll go live on Mars. Everybody, it's not going to happen. Sorry, even if people live on Mars, they're going to be completely dependent on back home, here on Earth. Earth is perfectly suited to us. Earth is our home. So we have to take care of it. As you may know, I was in engineering school at Cornell University. And I went to Cornell because of some sort of clerical error in the admissions department, which is remarkable. But I completed my mechanical engineering requirements and I thought for kicks, I would take an astronomy class from this famous guy, Carl Sagan. I took one class. And Carl Sagan talked continually about what he called comparative planetology, what we can learn by comparing the climate of Earth with the climate of Mars with the climate of Venus. And you talk about a cautionary tale. Everybody, we cannot live on Mars. I'm not saying we couldn't survive there with extraordinary technology for a few weeks, months, or even years. But you can't go to live there because there's no water, there's no food, and there's no air. Mars has a very, very thin atmosphere. It's so thin that right at the surface of Mars on a sunny day near the equator of Mars, it might be right around freezing, 0 Celsius 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Then as you reach up as high as I am tall, the temperature might drop by as much as 20 degrees Celsius. If you stand on a ladder, it would drop 40 degrees Celsius because the atmosphere is so thin. Nevertheless, Mars does have an atmosphere. And it has a greenhouse effect. It has enough carbon dioxide to keep the planet's surface just somewhat warmer than it would be otherwise. Well, now we compare Earth to Venus. We do not want to be Venus. This is where carbon was cooked out of the rocks, became carbon dioxide, or perhaps it spewed out of volcanoes. And there's enough carbon dioxide in the Venusian atmosphere to make the greenhouse effect just run away. The hotter it got, the more carbon cooked out of the rocks. And the more carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere, the hotter and hotter it got. The Venusian atmosphere is 90 times the thickness of Earth's atmosphere. It's like being underwater, a long way underwater. And it's fantastically hot. We could not survive for an instant on Venus. Lead would melt in a few moments. You would be incinerated in seconds. The surface temperature on Venus is around 470 Celsius, 880 Fahrenheit. So by studying Venus, we learn about the greenhouse effect. And we learn about t...

About the Instructor

With his 19-time Emmy Award–winning show, Bill Nye the Science Guy introduced the joy of scientific discovery to a worldwide audience. Now, for the first time, the beloved educator is teaching his framework for scientific thinking and everyday problem-solving. Learn Bill’s approach to navigating information through “critical filtering” and embrace a science-based, optimistic response to some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

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Bill Nye

Emmy Award–winning science educator Bill Nye teaches you his method for solving everyday problems, evaluating information, and thinking like a scientist.

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