Bill Nye was one of the inspirations for the show. Cheryl Heuton met him in 1994 when she was a journalist, and he talked to her for three hours about how fewer and fewer kids today are studying math and science, and how this was not only going to have a bad result for the nation and the world, it would also mean the loss of much beauty and understanding.
With the success of Numb3rs, the producers decided to bring Mr. Nye onto to the show as a recurring character. Bill plays a CalSci professor and scientist, Bill Waldie. He's the guy who runs the college's combustion lab.