Carl Sagan's Contact

Ellie Arroway as a UFO Contactee

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Carl Sagan's Contact

#1  Postby lpetrich » Sep 22, 2015 8:37 pm

I remember reading the novel long ago. However, a part of it soured me on it, and for that reason, I have not seen the movie version.

When Ellie Arroway and her fellow wormhole travelers finish their extraterrestrial journey, all the physical evidence of that journey got erased -- all the videotapes that they had used to record their travels. So they were left with their memories, and everybody else was dependent on their assertions. From Contact (novel), "Ellie finds herself asking the world to take a leap of faith and believe what she and the others say happened to them."

That's what I didn't like -- the destruction of the evidence, destruction that seemed very contrived to me. It seems to me that a plausible malfunction would leave at least some of the tape at least half-usable.

Even worse, she had only the same kind of evidence as UFO contactees do of their contacts and travels. How was she any different from George Adamski or Billy Meier? Did Carl Sagan himself ever see the connection? He himself had once run into a UFO contactee early in his career, and he disdained UFO contactees from then onward, if not before.

Silver Screen Saucers: Looking Back at 'Contact' by Robbie Graham -- RG himself also notes the similarity:

In the movie, Ellie is asked why she does not withdraw her testimony because of the lack of evidence beyond her assertions:

“Because I can’t. I... had an experience... I can’t prove it, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever... A vision of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how rare and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves, that we are not, that none of us, are alone! I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if only for one moment, could feel that awe, and humility, and hope. But... That continues to be my wish.”

In effect, a spiritual awakening. She even gets a quasi-religious sort of following of her as a prophet of the "new world".

Like many a contactee, Ellie has attracted followers with her stories of otherworldly communion. Certain elements of society see fit to believe her, while most do not. Either way her story is out there.

Something that I did not pick up on, I must concede. But then again, I was very bummed out by the erasure of the evidence.

I could take the preposterous notion that pi was fixed by some superintelligence rather than fixed by logical necessity ("The Artist's Signature"), but not that.
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Re: Carl Sagan's Contact

#2  Postby The_Piper » Sep 22, 2015 9:00 pm

I only saw the movie, but I never got that either, and it annoyed me a lot as well. It seemed only put in to add credence to the religious people in the story. To put her experience on a par with theirs. Coming from Sagan, it's a head scratcher.
Nonetheless, I do love that movie.
I don't recall the artist's signature part, perhaps it wooshed over my head. I've only seen it 3 or 5 times. :doh:
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Re: Carl Sagan's Contact

#3  Postby scott1328 » Sep 22, 2015 11:51 pm

The_Piper wrote:I only saw the movie, but I never got that either, and it annoyed me a lot as well. It seemed only put in to add credence to the religious people in the story. To put her experience on a par with theirs. Coming from Sagan, it's a head scratcher.
Nonetheless, I do love that movie.
I don't recall the artist's signature part, perhaps it wooshed over my head. I've only seen it 3 or 5 times. :doh:

The so-called "artist's signature" was omitted from the movie. In the book and the movie, not all physical evidence was eliminated. In the book, if I recall correctly, the travelers brought back sand from the beach they were on. In the movie, Ellie brought back hours and hours of erased video tape (when she had supposedly spent minutes in the capsule)

I always took the end of Contact as Sagan laying out what would convince him personally of divine, numinous, beings.
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Re: Carl Sagan's Contact

#4  Postby The_Piper » Sep 23, 2015 12:01 am

scott1328 wrote:
The_Piper wrote:I only saw the movie, but I never got that either, and it annoyed me a lot as well. It seemed only put in to add credence to the religious people in the story. To put her experience on a par with theirs. Coming from Sagan, it's a head scratcher.
Nonetheless, I do love that movie.
I don't recall the artist's signature part, perhaps it wooshed over my head. I've only seen it 3 or 5 times. :doh:

The so-called "artist's signature" was omitted from the movie. In the book and the movie, not all physical evidence was eliminated. In the book, if I recall correctly, the travelers brought back sand from the beach they were on. In the movie, Ellie brought back hours and hours of erased video tape (when she had supposedly spent minutes in the capsule)

I always took the end of Contact as Sagan laying out what would convince him personally of divine, numinous, beings.

Oh yeah, the tape was erased for the exact amount of time she was in the machine.
Are you talking about the end of the book, pi would convince him? Because there was too much doubt to convince me at the end of the movie, iirc. (as an outside observer not privy to the details of the movie)
I'll have to watch it again, maybe read the book too. :)
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Re: Carl Sagan's Contact

#5  Postby lpetrich » Sep 23, 2015 5:23 am

The artist's signature part is in the book. It states that if one uses an appropriate number base for representing pi, one will eventually get a pattern of digits that looks like a rasterization of a circle. This is presumably a deliberate choice by the designer of our Universe.

I find it silly because the value of pi is fixed by logical necessity. There are many ways to calculate pi, but a simple way is
4*arctan(1) = 4*(1 -1/3 + 1/5 - 1/7 + 1/9 - 1/11 + ...)
It's not very computationally efficient, but there are plenty of methods which are much more computationally efficient.

In the movie, they discover that 18 hours of static, yes, but it is too late for her, it seems. I also don't like the idea of her wanting people to have quasi-religious faith in her and her account. I agree with The_Piper that that is very strange. I'd prefer something like "All I have is my memories of my journey, and my memories and recollections of them may contain mistakes. But I hope that those are all honest mistakes."

Then I'd explain something about credibility. If I claimed that I have a pet domestic cat, all of you would believe me unless they had reason to believe otherwise. You would all assume that I'm reliable in this. If I claimed that I have a pet lion, you may want more evidence than my assertion, since not many people have pet lions. If I claimed that I have a pet sabertooth, you would wonder if I had made some horrible mistake or whether I was teasing you with some preposterous assertion, since the last sabertooths died at the end of the last Ice Age, as far as anyone knows. "To many of you, my journeys may seem not like the cat, but like the lion or even like the sabertooth. I'm disappointed that I cannot provide more evidence."

That's what Carl Sagan meant by extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence.
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