Contact: Carl Sagan's other video (and novel) legacy to the world
I promise to get back to technology posts soon, but first, this message:
I couldn't sleep this evening. I found myself wide awake at midnight. There's plenty of work to do, not including writing posts for this blog. I went into the den to try to fall asleep, but no luck.
While laying in the dark on the sofa, I began thinking about astronomy and science, and my mind took me to Carl Sagan, one of my heroes. I remember how remarkable a man he was, and how much he gave us all. He wrote or co-authored more than 20 books, including one of my favorite bits of science fiction, Contact. He wrote over 600 scientific articles, and, probably his greatest legacy, he wrote and was the star of the PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, seen by over 600 million people worldwide. He brought science to the masses, and, among many other things, was a strong advocate of critical thinking.
You can read more about him by following the links in this post. However, I want to talk a little about the book and movie, Contact.
Sagan's literary influence, his wonderful wife Ann Druyan, was with him every step of the way in the writing of this novel, and she made her mark on the result. She also was the producer of the movie, unfortunately finishing it just a little too late.
This morning, I watched the movie again. It was released in 1997, a year after Dr. Sagan's death. He worked hard on the movie, but had to wait for special effects to catch up to what he had written. He and Ann didn't want to shortchange his audience. The movie is spectacular. And the book is even better!
For ten years after the book was published, I am pretty sure I read the book once a year. It had such depth of character in Ellie Arroway, and the story is riveting. I believe I fell a little in love with Ellie. I certainly envy her, even now. She got to go to the STARS!
Ellie Arroway (played by Jodie Foster) is a brilliant, driven, amazing woman with a dream - to discover proof of other intelligent life in the universe. As her father told her in the movie, "Small steps, Ellie," so she learned to be patient in her search for life in the sky. She is a scientist and skeptic through and through for most of the book; she doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven, questioning anything that doesn't fit in the scientific universe she trusts. But, at the end of both the book and movie, she finds faith.
The movie lets us down a little at the end, in that Ellie, while apparently (but not obviously) continues doing research, she is a teacher/tour guide for young students. Her goal is to instill a sense of scientific wonder in them and grow future scientists. Not a bad ending, but, in the book she continues her research looking for proof of a universal creator (a progenitor race) that the alien beings told her existed. Even though I have read the book many times, I still get a thrill and a shiver at the end.
I won't spoil it for those of you that have not read it. Go out and buy a copy and experience the wonderful writing and mind of Carl Sagan, scientist, great mind, and human being extraordinaire. You will not be sorry.
I also get to mention what I think is an interesting juxtaposition. Four days from now is the anniversary of Dr. Sagan's death. I haven't really thought about or seen the movie in several years. Odd that I thought of it tonight.
Dr. Carl Sagan, November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996