Putting Some Science Behind the Mask

Putting Some Science Behind the Mask

July 23, 2020 0 By Stephen Callahan

The entire world has been blindsided by an invisible demon. The U.S. was then slashed open by social upheaval. No one would be condemned for voicing these as not the best of times. However, during this less-than-euphoric period in human history some can use their renowned common sense to help.

While sizable portions of our rural population are immune to the often violent events surrounding the social unrest, few, if any, are immune to the invisible enemy. COVID-19 has cut a swath through both urban and rural communities across the United States, in fact the planet.

There have been a myriad of debates over the source of the virus and who is most vulnerable. A topic of consternation has been protection, namely wearing masks. This seemingly simple choice has created a national division. One man employed his worldwide notoriety, hopefully to help calm the clamoring confusion.

He was born in 1955 William Sanford Nye. The world knows him as Bill Nye the Science Guy. Nye understands the simple science behind wearing masks, and he has launched a public service announcement (PSA), to help unweave the web of mask confusion.

Thousands of school children and adults alike have enjoyed understandable explanations of scientific principles. It might seem unlikely that a former mechanical engineer for Boeing could mold such a connection with everyday non-scientific types.

Nye did it so well he won 19 Emmys for his television series, which aired during the mid-1990s. Bill Nye went back to the public airwaves recently, posting a one-minute PSA to help explain why wearing a mask is simple, and could prove vitally important to slowly a viral pandemic.

Nye’s 60-second video presentation reflects the same high-energy presentations he used to capture the attention of kids and adults during his half-hour show syndicated by Walt Disney Television. He used the same simplistic methods supported by visual evidence.

Nye’s video uses two distinct types of face coverings, a cloth mask and a simple scarf. Flanking Nye during the PSA video, just off his right elbow, is a burning candle. In the video he begins by refuting the idea that a traditional neck scarf might be sufficient to halt the spread of airborne particles.

Nye proclaims the practical value of the scarf for some situations, but then proceeds to put it in front of his mouth and then blows. The candle is extinguished with minimal effort. Subsequently, with a few of the trademark sound effects in the background to captivate his audience, Nye puts pulls out a finely crafted, homemade cloth mask.

While he didn’t huff-and-puff too dramatically, Nye used a robust burst of air to try to blow out his candle. Of course, he failed to do more than cause a slight flicker. The underlying principle was to show how effective a cloth mask is at preventing the airborne spread of air, and consequently potentially harmful particles in that air.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shared the video on Twitter. It is scientific support for wearing masks in situations beyond just COVID-19 safety. Nye’s perfectly timed PSA is wonderful advice for anyone who feels they might be infected with a contagious illness.

While it doesn’t address anything about our nation’s social unrest, it does show how important a simple explanation can dilute a disagreement about the practical application of something we’re not accustomed to doing.

No one in a normal time would enjoy wearing a mask across their face. Well, maybe kids during Halloween festivities, but not in the normal everyday scheme of things. However, wearing a mask today is not only practical, but at some level medically essential. This one-minute long PSA on mask-wearing proves it to be as easy as it is practical.

Bill Nye employed his talent for identifying and connecting with children and adults to help make wearing a mask more understandable. It’s so helpful when someone can help science meet common sense. Bill Nye the Science Guy puts 60-seconds worth of common sense to good scientific use.