mayo 25, 2011

Contact: a journey into the roots of everything (May 2010)

Are we alone in this immensely vast Universe? For centuries, humanity has dreamed of life beyond this tiny little planet and its frontiers, in which our history takes place. Within the pages of the best seller Contact, a 1987 novel by scientist Dr. Carl Sagan, a conceivable answer is given to this question mark.

The book raises very important questions, not only about the Universe and its potential inhabitants, but also regarding life itself, as we know it on Earth, and our behaviour throughout history. It also deals with apparently contradictory ideas, such as the existence of a Creator who would serve scientific progress in unveiling the origin of the Universe, but searching ways of expressing a conciliating attitude towards them. These links could turn out to demonstrate they might not be actually opposite. In addition, the novel is intended to worship the real SETI project, along with its groups of participating scientists who have decided to undertake such a difficult task.

In the novel, the agnostic, strongly tempered Dr. Eleanor Arroway, a devoted scientist member of SETI, encounters a radio signal from outer space by using the enormous radio telescopes of the Very Large Array (a real facility in the desert of New Mexico) and consequently everything changes.

Played by Jodie Foster in the 1997 film adaptation by Robert Zemeckis (also starring Matthew McCounaghy as reverend Palmer Joss), Ellie has had a very particular childhood, yet her life is to become much more interesting in the light of the ET-related events. Although the movie keeps the essence of the narration intact, it omits important plot points related to the actual meaning which Sagan intended to convey.

In my opinion, Contact proves there is a symbiosis between science and science-fiction, since some of Newton's, Planck's and Einstein's theories, for instance, are employed, and also as a result of the power of imagination and open-mindedness involved in every great step in human history, as Sagan remarks through the perspective of Ellie. Apart from this, whether there is really intelligent life out there or not, and whether we make contact or not, Sagan remarks being patient and persevering to achieve our goals, but most importantly, being careful not to lose ourselves in the process.

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