Bill Nye Breaks Down the Science of Skin Colour

"We have different coloured skin. But we're all one species"

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jul 21, 2020

With a return to classrooms still up in the air, Bill Nye has taken to TikTok to show a whole new generation of viewers why "science rules." Having demonstrated mask effectiveness in an effort to get more of his fellow Americans to wear them, Nye has now returned with a brief breakdown of the science of skin colour.

Coming to viewers live from his kitchen, Nye first uses a multi-coloured map to show where the most ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun shines on Earth. As the colours show, the light is most intense around the equator.

"It turns out that everybody on Earth is a descendant from people that live here, in Africa," Nye says, pointing to the continent. "And then as groups of us move around the world, the colour of our skin had to change."

Nye then uses a second map to explain the biological science behind skin pigmentation, explaining how colour has evolved in relation to the amount of UV in the environment. As a result, people further from the equator had lighter skin.

"And that's it, everybody. That's why we have different coloured skin. But we're all one species," Nye concludes. "But we're not treating each other fairly. Not everybody is getting an even shake. So it's time to change things."

Nye's TikTok breakdown draws from the work of anthropologist Nina Jablonski and geographer George Chaplin, who co-authored an article on the evolution of human skin coloration for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2000.

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