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Science Video of the Week! Bill Nye on Juno

Nov 6, 2013

Welcome to the first Science Video of the Week feature! Each Wednesday I will post an interesting science video with some comments from either myself or the producer, and will conclude with some questions for discussion.

I started this feature for the Women in Film and Video of Washington, DC email list, and any responses I list are from people in that group. Feel free to add your own comments below!

If you created a science video you would like to share, especially ones that had interesting challenges you’d like to discuss, send it to me and we can chat a little about how you approached the production!

Before you watch the video:

THNKR, a YouTube channel created by Radical Media, recently started a web-series called “Why With Nye” featuring who else but the Science Guy! In each short two-or-three-minute episode, Bill Nye explains a particular aspect of the NASA Juno mission or its target planet, Jupiter. Take a look at one of the recent episodes, “Bill Nye Explains Why Jupiter is Like a Blender.”

Watch the video:

After you watch the video:

For anyone who was a kid in the 90’s like I was, or anyone who taught kids or had kids of their own, it is very exciting to see Bill Nye back in action. He may not have proved his ballroom skills on Dancing with the Stars, but he proves here that he definitely still has what it takes to explain science in an understandable, engaging, and entertaining manner. With just a few props and a basic green-screen studio, Nye describes how the gravity of Jupiter helped mix up and blend the elements all throughout the solar system. (Of course, the animators played a big role as well!)


Not everyone’s lucky enough to have Bill Nye for their videos. What are some basic methods and tips you can take away from Bill Nye for how to explain a concept on film? How could these apply for types of videos besides science and educational videos?


I had a couple of conflicting responses to this video. Nancy Mantelli wrote:

“Bill Nye not only simplifies concepts and answers, he also applies to everyday life. It makes sense. Showing bread in the first scene is something we all can relate to. Blue and red water is as visual as you can get. He is the master at making his viewers understand through common application.”

Dan Bailes felt differently:

“I found him zippy and entertaining, easy to watch and I don’t understand the point he was trying to make. I don’t get the relationship between the water in the jars and planets forming in space… I think the video is a great example of style over substance, meaning getting lost in the sizzle without enough attention to the steak.”

I think that it’s possible I didn’t choose the best example from the Why With Nye series. Bill was trying to make the point that gravity can cause different materials to move around and get dispersed, and since Jupiter is the biggest planet, its gravity influenced the movement of the rest of the material in the early solar system. It did actually take me watching the videos a couple times though to figure out the relationship between the water jars and planet formation, and I think Bill’s other videos illustrate clearer points.

But in general, I think a few tips you could take away from the Why With Nye series are:

  • Pick just one concept to explain at a time

  • Keep it short

  • Choose just a few analogies, animations, and demonstrations that clearly illustrate the concept

  • Accompany all visuals with audio and all audio with visuals – try to engage both senses as much as possible

  • Be concise; make sure everything you’re saying illustrates the concept. (It doesn’t hurt to have a couple seconds of humor now and then, but no tangents or long introductions.)

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