Speculation on 'Contact' - Design Impact of Chair

Andrew Pratt

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Another topic altogether is why an alien species would go to such lengths to merely make contact for the purposes of creating mental scenarios specific to only the passenger of the pod. I would think that with their sophistication, they would want to send along a civilization-spanning message
Didn't ellie ask that question to "her father" during the beach scene only to have them reply that this is the way its been done for milleniums?
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Chuck Mayer

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Well, it's been 4 years since I read the book. But I believe the quote used above is accurate. If you take God as a representation of order in the universe and a "master plan" as it were. Wonderful book and fantastic movie in my opinion. One of the first SE DVD's as well, and it still stands up with today's loaded DVD's. Back when WB was DVD's champion. Take care.
Chuck
 

RicP

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I hate to nitpick one of my favorite films, but what to compasses measure? Yep, magnetic fields. So why if its a magnetic field that flings the chair against the ceiling does the thing just float along without a care in the world?
While true that compasses "react" to magnetic fields (they don't really measure anything) they are not magnetic in and of themselves. Therefore the compass, which was made of plastic, would not be affected by the violent magnetism that caused the chair to fly into the wall of the sphere.

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Ken Chan

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quote: Another topic altogether is why an alien species would go to such lengths to merely make contact for the purposes of creating mental scenarios specific to only the passenger of the pod. I would think that with their sophistication, they would want to send along a civilization-spanning message.[/quote]
In one sense, the initial signal (with the prime numbers) was such a message. Also, they can read her mind once she gets there and craft the message for her. But they don't know the state of all civilization on Earth; Ellie doesn't know it or represent it. (The book is a little better in that five different people go.)
But more to the point, as they say in the movie, "Small moves."
Before the events in the film, there are some that have claimed extra-terrestial intelligence (mostly in the form of visitation), which most people disbelieve, and maybe the government knows the real truth. At the end of the movie, there is a substantial claim of ETi, which some people disbelieve, and the government does know the real truth
You have to give civilization time to change its thinking of where it stands in the universe.
An opposite approach would be to land your flying saucer in Washington DC, to proclaim that humans are not alone. We all know what happens then: you get shot.
//Ken
[Edited last by Ken Chan on August 23, 2001 at 10:52 PM]
 

Danny R

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Are you sure about this? I only read half of the book (Sagan was much better at non-fiction than fiction), but this would really surprise me, being that Sagan was a strict atheist.
Yes, I'm quite sure. In the book, Ellie is shown absolute proof that God does in fact exist, and that the universe was created by design. (Remember that this is a SF novel)
You are right about Sagan being an Atheist. I think the point of the book was to ask "If God does exist, why can't we find proof that survives the scientific method?" In the book Ellie asks just such a question, and ultimately finds the answer in a provable way.
However in the movie, Ellie asks the question, and is told by the aliens that they have never found anyone but each other. And she is then forced to act on "faith" alone, which gives credence to the religeous folk.
Its a complete hash of the original message and why I think the movie is probably one of the worst adaptations ever of a book. It totally throws away the authors message.
 

ace peterson

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Sorry, but I didn't get that message out of the book when I read it. In fact, I got the opposite. That there are more advanced beings out there, even more so than the aliens we met in the book/movie. They are the ones who made the "subway system" that Elly travelled on. It wasn't God. The aliens never gave any mention of God either.
Ace
 

Brian Perry

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In the book, while the aliens never mentioned God by name, they did imply that a higher being had created the universe (by virtue of the undeciphered message embedded deep inside the numbers of pi.)
While I like the film overall, I agree with Danny that the book's ending message (as I interpreted it) was missed. That is, there are scenarios in which the theories of evolution/science and creation/faith can coexist.
[Edited last by Brian Perry on August 24, 2001 at 06:57 PM]
 

Hector X. Cruz

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This is an interesting discussion.
I didn't read the book, unfortunately, so I am not in a position to comment on some of these points.
Based solely on the information presented in the film, however, there is absolutely no mention of God as it pertains to the creation of the "subway system."
I didn't think a thread on the chair would become so philosophical or turn into a theological debate.
-Hector
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[Edited last by Hector X. Cruz on August 24, 2001 at 03:59 PM]
 

Bill Catherall

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The magnetic field of the compass needle is not strong enough to cause the entire compass (plastic and all) to move, even in the presence of the world's strongest magnet. Also, the chair did not smash into the wall immediately, indicating that the magnetic field of the pod was not always present. Ellie was holding the compass when the chair was smashed, therefore even if the compass could have hit the walls, it wouldn't with her holding it.
Look closely at the compass needle as it is floating around in the pod. The needle moves randomly indicating that if any magnetic field is present, it is changing very rapidly.
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RicP

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If the compass case was made of plastic, it's true that it wouldn't be affected by the magnetism. However, the compass needle would have to be affected by the magnetism, else it couldn't function as a compass. That leaves the question still open.
No it doesn't. The amount of metallic material in the needle is miniscule and would in no way cause the casing of the compass to react to the magnetic field around it.
Sorry Robert, but you're off on this one.

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RobertR

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quote: The amount of metallic material in the needle is miniscule and would in no way cause the casing of the compass to react to the magnetic field around it.[/quote]
It doesn't matter if the casing reacts. The point is that the needle would react, and (since it was obviously an extremely strong field) would move the case along with it.
I think it's easier to just chalk this one up to a "whoops!" on the part of the filmmakers, just like the famous "parsec" comment in Star Wars.

[Edited last by RobertR on August 24, 2001 at 04:31 PM]
 

PhilipW

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#1. Has anyone questioned what happened to the chair after she returned to our timeline, meaning if the chair was stuck to the top of the sphere during her travels, wouldn't it have landed on her at the time of her arrival back home?
#2. Haven't read the book. Did not get any message from the movie about "God".
#3. What discussion about parsec in Star Wars. I may be missing something here but I thought the way it was said in the movie made sense. Am I missing something?
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Greg_Y

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From the IMDB:
Incorrectly regarded as goofs: Han Solo claims that the Millennium Falcon "made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs" when asked how fast the ship is. Parsecs are a measure of distance, not time, and thus either he is wrong or is using some form of slang. Some reports have director George Lucas claiming that this was done deliberately to show that Han Solo didn't always know what he was talking about. Other explanations have been offered, but they typically rely on material not presented in the film.
 

Hector X. Cruz

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PhilpW, that's a very, very good point. The chair should not have dematerialized, should it?
Argued from both points: if she imagined the entire "journey", then the chair should have still been in the center of the transport and Ellie should have still been strapped in. Since that clearly didn't happen, then the chair should have landed on her.
Are we debating a pointless argument, or was it just a mistake on the part of the filmmakers? I don't want to be a nitpicker, either.
My initial thread was meant as a discussion of the INTENDED physics and effects of the journey. Not to pick apart filmmaking continuity issues.
-Hector
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[Edited last by Hector X. Cruz on August 24, 2001 at 05:40 PM]
 

RicP

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I think it's easier to just chalk this one up to a "whoops!" on the part of the filmmakers
Actually it's easier to chalk it up to the fact that your explanation makes no sense whatsoever and therefore has no bearing on what happened in the film.
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Bill Catherall

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Did not get any message from the movie about "God".
Here's my take on it (I'm not trying to convince anybody that this is the way you should understand it...just my $.02):
The alien she encountered out in space was in the form of her dad. Therefore, she got to visit her "father in heaven." Also, obviously this was such an incredible experience for her that she became profoundly emotional about it at the hearing. She also had no scientific proof to support her claim of the things she experienced. Very much like the spiritual experiences that her preacher friend tells her about. There is a parallel drawn in the movie between Ellie's alien visitation and a belief in God.
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RobertR

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quote: A .0003 gram needle would move a 12 gram plastic casing?[/quote]
Irrelevant, since the magnetic force acting on the low mass needle is obviously well over 100 newtons. It would definitely move.
But I can see that this is another case of "dammit, I will not let you prove me wrong", so I'm not going to debate it any more with you.
[Edited last by RobertR on August 24, 2001 at 07:19 PM]
 

Ken Chan

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In the book, Ellie is shown absolute proof that God does in fact exist, and that the universe was created by design.
Couple problems:
  • "God" is a vague term, even when you capitalize it
  • As I recall, at the very end of the book, they find the thing with pi, it is not "shown", certainly not by the ETs
  • While the thing with pi might convince most, I'm not sure it would pass muster with mathematicians (lots in digits in pi)
  • Even if you accept it as proof of design, that does not then prove the existence of the monotheistic God that's currently popular here on Earth (back to the first point) -- how about design by committee?
I guess that's more than a couple

I don't recall how or even whether they explain the transport system in the book. In the movie, they just say it was already there, which could be interpreted a few different ways.
//Ken
 

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