Contact (1997) is based on a novel by Carl Sagan. This film depicts the struggles of Ellie Arroway, a SETI researcher, to find meaning through the complex societal web that sometimes places faith and religion against science and logic. The theme of the movie, at its heart, is a philosophical debate between the merits and meaning of love, compassion, faith, and metaphysical mystery, versus the objective, non-judgmental, and quantifiable realm of the hard sciences. This film makes a grand comparison between Ellie Arroway’s personal journey to enlightenment, and humanities struggle with the ramifications brought by our technological capabilities. Just as Ellie found a meaningful balance between science and belief, human civilization must also strike a balance between our scientific technological capabilities and our decisions on how to use them wisely.
The scientific topics discussed in the movie include the Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, time dilation, light years, wormholes, and the SETI Program.
The film is well-suited for the following classes: astronomy, general science, physical science, physics, the humanities, and psychology.
The runtime is 2:22 minutes. The 45-question movie guide worksheet is slip-up over 4 days of classroom viewing, with about 36 minutes of viewing per day. The questions are higher-order in nature. They ask the students to analyze and apply the concepts discussed in the film, form a substantiated opinion, and then write an explanation based on their individual interpretation.
COSMOS Episode 4: A Sky Full of Ghosts (2014) links our scientific progress and understanding to our human need to find meaning in our existence. Neil DeGrasse Tyson guides us through this journey by explaining that optical phenomenon, like illusions or “ghosts,” can also be analyzed through the eyes of science, giving us a more complete understanding of the reality surrounding us. He links Einstein’s understanding of light and gravity to show us that it is possible to infer the existence of objects we cannot see—like black holes!