4 Unique Patents from Bill Nye, the Celebrity Scientist
Since the debut of his eponymous TV show in 1993, William Sanford “Bill” Nye has been one of the most popular “celebrity scientists” in the entertainment industry. His show featured scientific concepts and themes not common in TV— supported by Nye’s unique presenting style that combined academia, charm, and humor, which successfully produced a beloved show that has helped generations of audiences develop their passion for science and also catapulted Nye to fame.
Despite his signature silly persona and massive success as an entertainer, some fans might be surprised to find that Nye isn’t a mere “ambassador for science”, but does possess legitimate scientific credentials himself. Nye is a certified mechanical engineer and alumnus of the prestigious Ivy League school, Cornell University. Before switching to comedy, he also worked for Boeing, where he devised suppressor tube hydraulic resonance used on 747 airplanes. Furthermore, he also had patents!
In honor of the man’s birthday, let’s take a look at some of his inventions:
Despite its elegance and beauty, ballet is a very tough and rigorous exercise that demands a lot from the dancers. To help these dancers, Nye devised a version of the ballet slipper that can protect one of the most crucial body parts for performing, the toes. This is achieved by including a support structure that includes a longitudinal support member, a foot-circulating tubular sleeve, and/or a toe ridge. With these slippers, ballerinas could perform “en pointe” with minimal pain.
Nye seems to have a penchant for inventing tools to support physical exercises. As the name suggests, this next invention is a device that helps athletes sharpen their ball-throwing skills. More specifically, the device provides guides for athletes to find the optimal form and positioning prior to throwing the ball. The guides in question include an elbow guide, ball guide, pole, and base structure. It’s unlikely that Nye’s device was designed with a football context, but we certainly would not mind if the World Cup goalkeepers give this a shot.
This invention is more in line with the scholarly reputation that most fans would associate Nye with. For younger partners, the ancient tool of the abacus might seem strange and especially redundant compared to the modern-day calculator. However, some educators still regard it as a helpful tool for students to train their concentration and mathematical logic. Ever the innovator, Bill Nye devised a digitalized version of the abacus during the mid-90s, long before digital tools became the standard.
Bill Nye’s lens is a manifestation of the values championed in his TV programs. Nye would often fashion devices out of everyday objects to showcase scientific concepts—the main goal being to present science as accessible and fun. For this device in particular, the inspiration came to Nye after realizing he could make a magnifying lens by filling a plastic sandwich bag with water. Building upon this finding, he constructed a flexible pouch made of a light-transparent material, such as low-density polyethylene, that is equipped with openings for filling it with water. One opening functions as an inlet for filling the bag, while the other allows air to escape during the filling process. When the pouch is completely filled, both openings are closed, which shapes it into a functional lens.
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