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High Flier

Bill Nye the Science Guy takes on mountains. He can pedal--and run--for miles. He ballroom dances. And he's really (and we mean really) into popcorn.


We had to pop our ears throughout this interview because Bill Nye took the subject of fitness into orbit. In person, Nye, 41, is just as impassioned lecturing on the virtues of snap beans--a favored vitamin source--as he is on TV teaching science on "Disney Presents Bill Nye the Science Guy."

Nye says he has to stay in shape for the rigors of his job. At least he thought he was in shape until a Blue Angel took him down:

"My pilot's nickname was 'Snooze' because he puts the passenger to sleep with 7 1/2 Gs. The maneuver is called the 'carrier release.' Your head's at the top of the turn and your heart's halfway between and your feet are at the bottom of the turn.

"So the airplane wings are pushing the airplane around this turn. OK. But you and all the blood in your body want to go straight. So the blood runs out of your head and into your feet. I was talking through the whole thing. No oxygen mask inverted, no problem. Flying upside down, no problem. Three and half G's, no problem. Four and a half G's, no problem. And I'm talking, I'm going on like this. And--carrier release! Out like a light! In the middle of talking--boom--right out. You didn't feel it coming."

The Physicist's Physical Activities (besides hiking, ice skating, mountain climbing, skiing and Ultimate Frisbee):

* "I ride my bike to work 8 1/2 miles. A commuter bike, robust wheels. Then, I have what you call a road bike, like a racing bike. If you guys want to take your mountain bikes up the top of a hill, enjoy that, that's fine. Do not ride a mountain bike to work, OK? You can ride your mountain bike with the big, knobby tires and the vibration and everything shaking, and I will ride to work on my skinny, hard wheels and we'll see who gets there first. I see the trend coming back to the thin, hard tires. It's a fad, heavy tires, I'm telling you. It's a fad that is not consistent with physics."

* "I run 5.6 miles in 45 minutes. I got back into running last spring because I had another astonishing, amazing, crazy thing happen to me. I got to escort the Olympic torch through downtown Seattle, which was very cool and I just did not want to have any trouble keeping up. Running uses different muscles than cycling. "

* "Ballroom dancing is a fabulously good way to get exercise. Country western is the same thing. The two-step is in many, many ways the same as the fox trot. Slow slow quick quick slow slow quick quick. You've only got two feet. You've got four quarter notes to a measure. Then you're pretty much there. You're limited. Dance on a dance. I think I skipped a couple of. . . ."

Excuse me, but what in the hell are you talking about?

"Dancing. You said, 'You like ballroom dancing,' and I said 'Yes, very much. Ballroom dancing or country western dancing. They're very similar.' This is what I'm trying to say."

Digest This:

"I'm not much of a diet food guy. Let me talk briefly, if you will, about my outlook on diet food. There's no culture ever, ever in the history of humankind anywhere on earth that would eat food to not get calories. Primordial people worked hard, really hard, to stay alive. It wouldn't have ever occurred to them not to struggle constantly, desperately, to have enough to eat."


* Breakfast. Granola. "You have to eat breakfast, kids. Look, I'm not trying to shock you, my young friend, but you've got to eat breakfast." On Sundays he might make scones. "It's easy when you have time. You have the Sunday newspaper. Scones. Peach marmalade. I like peaches. Who doesn't like peaches, for crying out loud?"

* Lunch. Half a tuna fish sandwich and a cup of soup, preferably Manhattan clam chowder. "I prefer a round soup spoon. You can't always find those. Do you understand? Not the big soup spoon, not like the tablespoon. The small round spoon."

* Dinner. Bill the Chef Guy suggests barbecuing salmon, but instead of wrapping it in aluminum foil, try lettuce. As for the vegetable, you should know by now that Nye has a suggestion for that too: steamed green beans. "Snap only one end of the bean because all of the vitamins are in there."

"Every day I make a salad with salt, garlic, vinegar, Dijon mustard and oil. The key is to rub the salt with the garlic until it's mushy. And you've got to rinse the lettuce. I like iceberg lettuce. And tear the lettuce. Don't cut it. As a kid one of our assignments would be a wire basket with handles and I would go outside and spin the lettuce over my head to run the water out."

Besides a Thirst for Knowledge, He Loves . . .

* Coffee. "You know I live in Seattle. Good coffee. Very good beer too. So I do enjoy the occasional cold beer."

A Slice of Heaven

* Hot cobbler with vanilla ice cream. "I'll just tell you about this vanilla ice cream thing. People will say as a criticism, 'Oh, you know, he's like vanilla ice cream.' Excuse me. Vanilla ice cream is genius. Vanilla ice cream is just about enough to make me believe that there are higher entities controlling the universe."

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