Bow-tied nerd superhero Nye (Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World, 2015, etc.) serves up a tasty combination of memoir and manifesto.
When he was a kid, writes the author, ever engagingly, it was said that the party didn’t start “until Bill gets out the dictionary.” A dogged pursuer of what some might call trivia and others the marrow of the universe, Nye loved physics, mathematics, and astronomy as well as geography, language, and literature. In short, he became an adept and enthusiast for knowledge writ large, leading him here to proselytize for “a worldview that involves gathering as much information as possible and being constantly on the lookout for ways to use it for the greater good.” The commonweal aspect will sound suspiciously lefty to the climate change deniers and creationists in the audience, but Nye is quite serious; it’s not enough, he writes, to geek out about comic-book characters and the changing details of the starship Enterprise over time, not when there are massive problems that only sharp, science-minded people can solve. Throughout the book, the author peppers the narrative with his own various engagements at the places where science and the political sphere meet, from his attendance at the very first Earth Day to his realization, while studying the deadly shortcuts of automakers in engineering school, that planning is the horse that pulls the cart: “A good design doesn’t guarantee a great product, because there are plenty of places to go wrong in execution; but you will never, ever have a great product without a very good design.” His objections notwithstanding, there are plenty of moments of geeking out in Nye’s book—e.g., his discussion of the exciting future of self-driven cars and how to apply the principles of good design to save the planet from ourselves.
Just the vade mecum for the smart teenager in the family and eminently pleasing reading for grown-up nerds as well.