Bill Nye, or The Science Guy, has brought joy to millions across the world through his love of science.
It’s truly rare to have somebody share their passion in that way.
So what if I were to tell you there was a MasterClass where you get to spend time with Bill Nye one on one?
Would you sign up immediately?
Isn’t there enough Bill Nye content to consume already?
I’ve taken Bill Nye’s MasterClass and I’m here to tell you all about it. I’ll be delving into the cost, the pros, the cons, the content, and the alternatives.
So, without delay, let’s take a look.
Here are the highlights if you’re short on time
You will learn:
- The fundamentals of the scientific method
- How science can be used to tackle collective issues, like climate change
- Critical thinking and critical filtering
- Experiments and demonstrations that illuminate scientific concepts
- The joy of constraints for generating ideas
- The potential scientific solutions to climate change
- How to think like a scientist
- How to tie ancient knots
- Taught by probably the most recognisable scientific educator around today
- Delves into the theory and philosophy of why science is so important
- Ambitious scope; this course wants you to change the world
- Abstract concepts illuminated with fun scientific demonstrations
- Introduces you to the basic concepts of scientific discovery
- Shows you how integral science is for making the world a better place
- A little overambitious, and slightly simplifies complex topics
- There’s already a lot of Bill Nye content out there exploring similar themes
- Experiments could’ve been a bit bigger and more frequent
Length of course: 13 video lessons totaling 2 hours and 44 minutes
Best for: Those that want to understand how science can be used to tackle global problems. Particularly good if you don’t know much about science but want to learn more.
Overall: This course throws you into the deep end by looking at how science can be used to tackle the biggest threats humanity faces. Although some might see it as a little simplistic, for others, it will be a wonderful introduction to using the scientific method to solve complex problems, taught by one of the most experienced and energetic communicators out there. Science rules!
In this Bill Nye MasterClass review I’ll be covering:
- About Bill Nye and Masterclass
- Inside Bill Nye’s Masterclass
- What I liked about this class and think could be improved
- Who I think this course is for
- The cost and any potential alternatives and most importantly…
Is the Bill Nye MasterClass worth it?
About Bill Nye
Bill Nye the Science Guy. Admit it, that tune has come straight back into your head.
He's known across the world as a leading educator in science and the guy who makes science fun.
A native of Washington D.C, Bill began his career as a mechanical engineer, before moving into sketch comedy.
He then fused the two in Bill Nye The Science Guy, a children’s television programme where Bill used experiments, quick cuts and visual gags to explain scientific concepts in a fast-paced, creative and enthusiastic way.
The show became widely popular and has been shown repeatedly in science teaching rooms ever since.
Nye continued to contribute to the scientific community as the CEO of The Planetary Society and the author of several books. He has continuously appeared in other projects throughout his career.
Nye recently made something of a career comeback through the Netflix film Bill Nye: Science Guy, which documented his career, and the subsequent series: Bill Nye Saves The World.
Nye is the recipient of numerous accolades and has become something of a pop culture icon in North America.
Check out the trailer for this MasterClass below:
MasterClass is one of the most easily recognizable learning platforms on the internet.
It launched inn 2014 and aims to produce high quality, well-produced lessons from world-renowned instructors, with courses ranging from cooking with Gordon Ramsey to acting with Natalie Portman, to performing with Herbie Hancock.
Despite this unique selling point, MasterClass isn’t for everyone, and no course or instructor is the same.
So, is the Bill Nye MasterClass right for you? Read on to find out.
Inside Bill Nye’s MasterClass
There are 13 video lessons in Bill Nye’s MasterClass, each ranging from around 10 to 20 minutes in length.
Taking the class means you also receive:
- An accompanying workbook to help guide you through the lessons
- The opportunity to speak and connect with others taking the course
I’m going to break down each lesson of the course so you can decide whether or not it’s something you might be interested in.
Before we begin, I should preface by saying that most MasterClasses open with an introductory lesson and closer with a summary one. As these lessons are limited in actual teaching, I’ve decided to exclude them from this list.
Lesson 2: Science Changes Your Perspective
If you’ve already watched the trailer and the first class, you’ll have an understanding of why Bill Nye is making this MasterClass.
He wants people to understand how we can use the scientific tools we have to make the world a better place, particularly concerning the climate crisis, which he is clearly very passionate about.
In this second lesson, these topics really come to fruition.
The main takeaway from this video is the way you solve a problem depends on the way you look at it.
Bill uses an example from a physics lesson he took, where he was able to calculate the area of an ellipse by changing the way he looked at it.
This simple anecdote serves to give you insight as to how you approach new challenges will depend on where you start from.
Lesson 3: Explore Everything All At Once
Titles like this one give a little bit of insight as to why I think this course is so ambitious.
But the point here isn’t to literally teach you how to know everything. Instead, Bill wants to give you the tools that will help you make new and meaningful discoveries about the world.
Bill points up that most of the world can appear supernatural to us. That’s why there is such a tendency for myth-making and superstition.
Bill argues that we can instead use science to help teach us things about the world, and avoid coming to the wrong conclusions.
Things are not how they appear, and Bill argues that something happening that you don’t expect is ideal for a scientist.
It’s a new point of discovery.
The concept is actually very basic. For example, we have found fossil remnants of dinosaurs that are aged way before humans, therefore dinosaurs and humans didn’t live together.
Seems simple, right? But this kind of logic is actually at the core of scientific inquiry, and it is the exact same method used by scientists at the frontiers of climate change to this day.
Lesson 4: Critical Thinking And Critical Thinking
We keep building on the ideas behind the science, as Bill Nye goes into his philosophy of critical thinking.
He also describes a concept, new to me, called critical filtering, where you discard information or ideas that aren’t relevant to the facts.
There are three basic rules:
- The claim needs to be specific
- The simplest explanation is often the most reasonable
- Cannot have a hypothesis that is shown to be false
The last point is important as it stops people from describing things as happening ‘just because.’ No one has been able to explain paranormal activity using this method, so instead, they appeal to explanations that can’t be disproven.
Bill does a little experiment to show us what he means.
He lights a candle, and then puts it out, and then takes a bite from it?!?
Turns out, the candle is an apple, and it was able to light because of its chemical makeup.
Things are often not what they seem, but using critical thinking skills you should be able to distil what information is correct, and what isn’t.
Lessons 5: Achieve Freedom From Fear
This course markets itself as focusing on the problem of climate change, and that enters into the picture here.
There is an awful lot of fear about climate change.
On the one hand, we cannot risk the planet being destroyed, and this is a big fear for all of us. But others are also frightened of the prospect of dramatically changing, and reducing the quality of our livelihood.
Bill Nye argues that fear is important for identifying a problem, but we can use the skills explored above to redirect fear into new knowledge and discovery.
An example is xenophobia. Tragically, all kinds of xenophobia, and fear of others, exists in the world today. For Bill Nye, this ‘fear’ can be dealt with scientifically, simply by looking at how UV rays and closeness to the equator affects skin tone.
Lesson 6: Everyone You Ever Meet Knows Something You Don’t
The key tenets of this lesson are to respect and trust each other.
A nice message, I’m sure you’ll agree. But it’s also an incredibly important one.
If we are going to tackle climate change, we need to be open to the opinions of experts, researchers and scientists, even if it goes against our intuition.
We also need to be open to changing our minds.
Bill did so about his skepticism about genetically modifying crops.
Initially, he was against it, but new technology and research developed disproving his theory.
Lesson 7: Facing Climate Change: Our Greatest Challenge
Bill alludes to the problems of climate change throughout his MasterClass, but right now we look at it square in the eye.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but the basic story is this.
The earth naturally goes through periods of warming and cooling, but since the 1750s our behaviour has changed as technology develops. We’ve become fossil fuel-based, pumping carbon into the atmosphere.
Gasses, like carbon dioxide and methane, are natural constituents of the atmosphere that warm the earth through what’s called the greenhouse effect. But our change in behaviour means there is more and more in the atmosphere, and so the world is getting warmer and warmer.
How do we know this?
Bill points to the evidence :
- Isotopes in Ice in Greenland
- Tree rings
- Spikes in emissions since the industrial revolution
But he also draws on earlier lessons for his explanation. The hypothesis for climate change passes all his critical thinking criteria. It’s a very specific claim, there is a clear linear effect, and thousands of scientists have reached the same conclusion.
What do I do about it then?
You’ll have to keep watching the MasterClass to find out.
Lesson 9: Using The Upside Down Pyramid Of Design To Make Things
How do we solve the problem of climate change?
It’s going to take a lot of information, but where do we start?
Rather than just give you a big list of ideas, Bill Nye instead offers you a broad framework for coming up with any new innovation.
The upside-down pyramid of design is his method of invention.
The steps include:
This may seem more like a business MasterClass than a scientific one at this point but is still all about the initial design. If the design itself isn’t scientifically rigid, then the rest of the pyramid fails.
Bill illuminates us with a few examples of the upside-down pyramid in action.
Floodgates in hurricane seasons and 3D printing materials to save on energy and transportation costs. These are both innovations that fit into the pyramid. They began with a design that solved a problem, and from that were able to market themselves effectively.
This granted them the appropriate materials and distribution channels, and now the world is a better place with these innovations around.
The process isn’t that simple in real life, and Bill prefers to think of the process as a series of pyramids and different people interacting.
But in terms of using science to solve problems, this is a good framework to start with.
Lesson 10: Celebrate The Joy Of Constraints
We are all a lot more constrained than we might think.
For one thing, we only have one body, one life and can only move in one direction of time. That’s actually all quite constraining.
But for Bill, constraints are what breeds innovation.
From being constrained by road safety laws, manufacturers were able to create cars that have a more collapsible structure, protecting the passenger upon collision. We get a nice demonstration of this with an egg comparison I’m sure everyone did in science at school.
I also learnt the origin of ‘thinking outside the box.’
It's from a game, where you have to connect a series of lines in a box without removing your pen.
The only way of doing this is by taking the continuous line outside the box as well.
The more you know.
Lesson 11 & 12: Let’s Seek Scientific Solutions To Climate Change & Fostering A Science-Minded Society
These lessons are basically two sides of the same coin and lead on nicely from one another.
This is where it all comes together.
Here, we combine the theory and framework of what makes science works and how we can use that to face the problems on the horizon.
Bill shows us how this is being done today through several examples:
- Electrified transportation
- Mass transits
- Electricity transitions
- Repurposing skills away from coal
- Solar energy
- Changing your windows
There’s some real insight here as to how many different aspects of life this problem will affect and is caused by, as well as how many innovations are out there in the world today.
On the one hand, it’s a little simplistic, and I would’ve liked a little more acknowledgement of the complexities of these issues.
Then again, it’s great that the whole course comes together to explain real-life innovation.
We also learn how connected politics, society and science truly are.
Bill goes into some of his policy ideas behind solving climate change:
- Carbon taxes
- Progressive taxes to ensure we share the burden
- National service for the planet
Lesson 13: Think Cosmically, Act Globally
After an entire MasterClass devoted to saving just one planet, the MasterClass now expands to understanding science to understand the wider universe.
Bill dismisses the idea of just moving out to space once the earth is ruined, but we can use the study of other planets to learn more about our own.
One example is through MarsDials, which tells us about the rising and setting of the sun in Mars, through checking the shadows on the dial.
Why are there differences? What does this tell us about our own planet?
As CEO of The Planetary Society, Bill Nye is deeply concerned with these questions and is always wondering whether or not we are alone in the universe.
There is a whole world of discovery out there, and so much we don’t know about our universe and ourselves.
But, by using the skills taught in this MasterClass, maybe we can get a little bit closer to understanding.
Bonus: How To Tie Ancient Knots
From science lab to the scout hall, this bonus lesson teaches you how to tie:
- Clove hitch
- Riggers hitch
- Square bow
- Bow tie (of course)
This bonus isn’t an arbitrary inclusion.
These knots are ancient and yet we use them today. There is a reason why they keep coming up and are used across the planet to solve problems.
It shows us how centuries of trial and error, innovation and critical thinking from a range of people can come together to find the most efficient ways to solve our problems.
This can be from something as arbitrary as tying your shoes so they don’t fall off, to tackling the threats to the future of our species.
What I Liked About The Course
The Best Scientific Communicator There Is
This first point speaks for itself.
If you’ve heard of Bill Nye, you don’t need any more persuading as to why a MasterClass from him, in science and knowledge no less, is worth considering.
Bill Nye is easily one of the most effective scientific communicators out there, and his entire career has been dedicated to bringing scientific understanding to a much wider audience.
Millions of people have been introduced to new concepts and countless others have been spurred on to take up scientific careers because of Bill's work.
Part of this is because he makes it all seem so fun.
In the confines of a classroom, science can look pretty boring, and I know for a fact I didn’t get on with a lot of my chemistry, physics and biology content. But watching Bill Nye was not only a welcome break from whatever my chemistry teacher was going on about, but I generally felt like I learned something as well.
By showing the dangerous and exciting side of science, Bill Nye spurs your curiosity and piques your interest.
Another part of what makes this so effective is his own curiosity.
His enthusiasm for discovery and knowledge are literally infectious.
And all of the above come through in the MasterClass. Throughout Bill is on top form and the whole course does a good job of demonstrating his best qualities.
Goes Into The Theory Of Why Science Works
Most of the Science Guy show was devoted to a specific topic.
Volcanoes, space, atoms, it was all covered.
So, I was a little bit sceptical going into this course because, with such a breadth of content out there, what is left for Bill Nye to teach?
MasterClass's selling point is to get an education from someone whose leading in their field, but Bill Nye is an educator anyway and that’s what most of his content is geared towards.
Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?
Not at all!
This MasterClass manages to stay unique for two reasons. One is that it focuses on relevant issues in science, which I'll talk about later, but it also goes into detail about what I can only describe as the ‘philosophy of science.’
How are we able to say facts about the world? What questions should I be asking? How do we solve problems in a way that we know will work?
Sure, you can explore volcanoes and atoms and space, and exploring all of that with Bill is a fun way to go about it. But underlying all of those discoveries and inventions is a scientific method used to learn about the universe we live in.
This course equips you with the basics of this method.
It asks you to think like a scientist.
In doing so, you’re better equipped to make accurate predictions about how the world functions, which is what science is all about.
Rather than just sitting down and showing a bunch of cool experiments, this course teaches you to think for yourself.
And that is very rare.
Relevant To Today's World
The other aspect that makes this course unique is how relevant it is to the world today.
Our climate is changing, and whatever your perspective is, navigating this will be an important element of the future; a future in which science will play an integral role.
This felt like an important course because it demonstrates why science matters so much to everything we do.
There is science in every aspect of our lives. The mechanics of your home, your car, the road, the office, every new invention that has enhanced our lives has been brought about by science.
This course does an excellent job of showing that.
Particularly in relation to climate change. Rather than descending into panic, Bill Nye wants us to use science to solve problems.
Because that's what we’ve done before and it’s what we’ve been doing throughout history.
This course not only showcases all the wonderful ways people out there are trying to combat issues like climate change now but also lets you into the secrets of how they are thinking.
You get an insight into the thought process behind the innovations that will change the world.
That’s quite a poignant thing to witness.
What I Think Could Be Improved
Bites Off More Than It Can Chew
So, I’ve just spent some time praising this course for incorporating big issues. But that can work to its disadvantage.
I know that may seem like a contradiction, and that’s because it is.
But whilst I did appreciate what the course tried to tackle, I don’t think the balance was quite struck right.
Focusing on climate change was important, and I would still include that. This is a course on problem-solving and climate change will be a problem whatever way you look at it.
Yet, I don’t think we quite get into the complexities of why this is such a big issue. Why are some people against innovation? What’s stopping science from preventing this from being an issue? Why doesn’t everyone just stop consuming?
These are quite big questions, and I do think they’re very relevant to the topic this course has elected to discuss. But they were slightly sidelined in favour of a ‘science will solve it’ mantra.
This course said it was going to teach how science interacted with the world, and whilst it focused on the positives, I think a lot could be learned from moments when science and society clash because that defines a lot of what scientists do and the challenges they face.
A potential response might be that this course is more of an introduction to using the scientific method. It’s not claiming to solve climate change, but instead showing you a method through which we can think about rectifying some of these issues.
After all, Bill’s job is to make scientific knowledge as far-reaching as possible.
That’s a very fair point.
My only caveat then would be that this course is a little bit basic. And if you are looking for deeper answers or a more sophisticated look at how science interacts with the world, this might not be the place to go.
Experiments Could Be Bigger And More Relevant
The earlier point went quite deep into the fundamental issues I had with the course. This point is not like that at all.
Bill Nye is known for marketing science to people who don’t have any interest, so he uses techniques like big experiments, plus his charismatic persona, to keep things interesting.
As one of the lazy folk who can’t be bothered researching science in my own time, I wanted this course to have more explosions!
I’m joking, but I do feel like there weren’t nearly as many practical experiments or examples as I expected.
I know we are dealing with more abstract, theory-based science here, but this is a big issue we are talking about, and I do feel like that warranted bigger and more demonstrations.
After all, that’s what Bill Nye is known for.
Who Is This Course For?
There are a few specific groups who I think this course could work for:
- People who are interested in science, but feel like it goes over their heads
- Those looking for solutions to climate change
- Bill Nye fans who want to relive their childhood
- Anyone looking for an introduction to the scientific method
- Anyone interested in how scientific developments are shaping our world
How Much Does The Course Cost?
MasterClass subscriptions are $180 per year, or $15 a month, at the time of writing.
With this, you receive access to all the 100+ courses on MasterClass.
So, taking more classes means you get more for what you pay.
Finding 4-6 classes you like means you’re effectively paying $30-$45 per course. This makes a lot more sense price-wise already, let alone the fact that you're being taught by some of the biggest names on the planet!
MasterClass also offers a 30-day refund if you’re unhappy with your purchase.
You can buy a course individually if it’s the only one that speaks to you. It’s a bit convoluted, but you can buy a single MasterClass as a gift, and essentially gift the course to yourself. The price here is $90.
However, with so much to choose from, I can’t imagine only one single course will spark your interest.
Alternatives To Bill Nye’s MasterClass
MasterClass has managed to get quite a few scientists and public intellectuals on board with their platform.
This makes sense. If there is any platform that lends itself to high profile figures explaining the concepts important to them, it’s this one.
Whilst Bill Nye’s class is a very broad overview of scientific inquiry, I often think of science classes in terms of biology, chemistry and physics.
In terms of biology, you can’t go wrong with Jane Goodall. This naturalist is renowned for her contributions to how we understand the animal kingdom and natural world. Here, you get to explore conservation with her.
When it comes to physics, the MasterClasses by Chris Hadfield and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The former, the legendary astronaut, is here to teach you all about space. In his MasterClass, you’ll get to understand the basics of space exploration.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass, like Bill Nye’s, is a little broader. The science communicator and Cosmos host give lessons on how to communicate and think like a scientist.
Now, MasterClass doesn’t have too much to offer on the chemistry front. But if neurochemistry, psychology and neuroscience are your thing why not check out Matthew Walker explaining the science of sleep:
But, of course, the best alternative to this course is to check out any one of the classic episodes of Bill Nye, The Science Guy.
Below is a personal favorite:
Is Bill Nye’s Masterclass Worth It?
So, is Bill Nye’s MasterClass worth it?
It seriously depends on what you’re looking for.
On the one hand, there is a lot of Bill Nye content out there anyway. Unlike other MasterClass courses, Bill Nye is an educator, so the content isn’t as unique.
On top of that, I do feel like this course could have gone into more details about the challenges and clashes between science and the real world, and how we can solve those issues as well. Climate change is a big issue, but a lot of its complexities weren’t addressed here.
With that in mind, if you feel fairly informed about climate change and the innovations we are developing as a result, I’d say it will be less helpful to you.
However, many of us don’t even know where to start with solving this problem.
That’s where this course comes in handy.
It introduces you to a clear, laid out, scientific way of thinking. If you adopt the techniques used here you will find it easier to solve problems big and small. This certainly puts me at ease about the planet's future.
It is also taught by one of the most legendary figures in popular science.
And with MasterClass, you can check out this course as well as all the other science classes the site offers. With Bill Nye, Jane Goodall, Chris Hadfield and Neil deGrass Tyson as part of their roster, a subscription is definitely worth considering if you’re science obsessed.
Frequently Asked Questions
A MasterClass all-access-pass costs $180 a year ($15 a month). This gives you access to 100+ courses, including Bill Nye’s Masterclass
2 hour and 44 minutes long, consisting of 13 video lessons.
No, Bill Nye’s Masterclass is not free. However, there are multiple offers and refunds if you’re not happy.
Yes, MasterClass operates a 30-day refund policy if you purchase directly through them. If you purchase through other providers, their returns policy may apply. To ensure your refund policy is valid, visit MasterClass here.
You can buy the course by itself by using the MasterClass “gift” option. The course costs $90 as a stand-alone.
Charlie is a student reading politics at King’s College London. He is also a passionate musician with over 14 years of experience. In his free time, he also enjoys cinema, long-distance running and learning new things.