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Science Guy Bill Nye Killed In Massive Vinegar/Baking-Soda Explosion

August 23, 2000 | Issue 36•29

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SEATTLE–In a shocking, educational tragedy, PBS television host and science guy William "Bill" Nye was killed Monday in a massive vinegar/baking-soda explosion that destroyed an entire city block and showed kids how they can inflate their very own weather balloon using everyday household items.

Enlarge Image Science Guy Bill Nye

The foamy blast that claimed the life of one of the nation's premier science guys (inset).

"Today, we mourn the loss of a truly great guy of science," said Nye Labs spokesman Phil Anspaugh, standing near the still-foaming blast site. "Bill Nye was a man who, more than anything else, wanted to enlighten, entertain, and demonstrate how vinegar and baking soda combine to create carbon-dioxide gas."

According to colleagues, Nye, the popular host of Bill Nye The Science Guy, had previously performed the fatal experiment on a much smaller scale without incident. On Monday, however, he filled a 5,000-gallon In-Ground Steel Container Of Science to the top with white vinegar and pulled a Giant Red Lever Of Science, releasing a dump-truck load of baking soda into the vat.

"The resulting exothermic reaction was supposed to inflate the Giant Weather Balloon Of Science that Nye had suspended above the vat," Anspaugh said. "But something went horribly wrong and the resulting explosion destroyed the tank, the truck, the balloon, and Nye himself. We're still searching for his body and bow tie."

"Did you know that if you put all of your body's blood vessels in a line, they would stretch around the Earth two and a half times?" Anspaugh added. "Well, now you know."

Local police are working closely with Nye Labs to determine what may have caused the routine experiment to go awry.

"Bill Nye was a very careful man," Nye Labs technician Julie Eng said. "All of his experiments were suitable for children to perform, as long as they made sure to have an adult assist them with the hard parts and to wear eye protection. For him to die this way, it's unthinkable."

However, other Nye Labs employees noted that Nye's unquenchable thirst for knowledge had led him into dangerous territory before, citing the series of static-electricity experiments which resulted in Nye being burned over 75 percent of his body while electrostatically suspended from the roof of the Kingdome.

"There was nothing he wouldn't do in his quest for scientific knowledge,"Nye Labs bio-engineer Randy Grein said. "He gave of himself so that we might know more about the world around us. Without Bill, we never would have known that a sneeze sends germs flying out of your nose at 100 mph, owls can turn their heads 270 degrees, and Mercury and Venus are the only planets without moons."

Grein admitted to familiarity with the dark side of Nye's obsessive vision. "I still have nightmares about the Very Large And Extreme Gyroscope Of Science," Grein said. "That monstrous apparatus almost taught the children of Seattle about angular momentum the hard way."

Grein also noted Nye's aborted attempt to build the world's largest soda-bottle water tornado, which burst during its final stages of construction, soaking hundreds.

"Bill's only fault was that he pushed the envelope a little too far sometimes," Grein said. "Especially with the baking-soda-and-vinegar experiment. I always knew that would be the one to get him in the end."

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