The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Bill Nye the Science Guy forgives USC its Twitterishness

December 12, 2010 |  8:59 am

Bill nye science guy A couple of USC seniors felt some of their fellow students demonstrated a lack of humanity last month when their guest speaker -- Bill Nye the Science Guy -- collapsed on stage.

Rather than come to Nye's assistance, the students pecked away at their Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, sending out news of the TV icon's distress, instead of doing anything to come to his aid, the two students said.

That story lighted up the Internet a few weeks ago, in what, as I wrote at the time, appeared to be another bit of proof that young narcissists spent too much time wallowing in their technology, losing their humanity in the process.

But that account soon met a stiff challenge. Others who attended the Nye speech at USC's Bovard Auditorium said the crowd was not nearly as detached as the two students originally reported. And, as I tried to show by way of some of the Internet postings on the event, the story took on a magnitude of its own due to the viral, myth-building power of the blogosphere.

Now, the "victim" of the students' purported bad behavior has come forward with his own account. And bow-tied Mr. Nye essentially says: No big deal. Nye wrote on his website that the USC students who came to his aid "were attentive, thoughtful, and gracious."

He also said he understood, as some students reported at the time, how they initially thought his collapse on stage (which he attributed to "fatigue and minor food poisoning") might have appeared to be a comedic device.

Nye offered only the mildest commentary on the propensity of some people, particularly the young, to operate in constant-communication mode. "I predict we’re in a phase," Nye wrote. "In a few years, people will learn to reduce their message sending, the same way many of us have learned not to answer the phone during dinner."

Nye also wryly observed that, given the large crowd of students who came to see him, it may have been for the best that they all didn't rush to show their concern. "I can assure you," he wrote, "that having 1,200 strangers run toward you when you’re sick is not appealing."

-- James Rainey

Photo: Bill Nye, host of television's "Bill Nye the Science Guy." Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press