Contact by Carl Sagan

‘He’s so perverse, Robert’, said Manny at lunch today. We’d been talking about the ending of Contact, which I’d just finished, where there is a message in Pi which proves that there is a Maker. The Maker has put a series of ones and noughts in Pi which make a circle if you care to set them out thus. Manny is quite taken with this. So, I’m like ‘Get off the grass. How could that possibly prove the existence of a Maker?’

‘Yes, that’s just what Robert thinks’, said Manny. I couldn’t tell if he was surprised or sad.

Call me perverse then. If this were the message:

Message from our Maker?

I’d be convinced. But a random sequence of digits in a infinite number making a random shape? Uh huh.

As for the book as a whole, it ran hot and cold for me: I felt like there was too much detail for a start. I wondered if that was because really two people wrote it. His wife must have had a huge input and one wonders why it isn’t a joint publication. There are rambling passages about culture, the point of which was lost on me. And it felt too much like a labour of love, like the authors were too close to it. If I’d got to edit it, I would have cut out a hundred pages. Even though the authors had a whole complex world in their heads when they were writing it, it doesn’t necessarily mean all of it should be imparted – spelled out, even – to the reader.

It warms up, and if the first 150 pages or so leave you discouraged, I’d hang on, the last half or so is better.

5 thoughts on “Contact by Carl Sagan

  1. I’m disappointed with both you and Robert. And Iris Fry. How come none of you see what is plain as day? Honestly, God’s wasting his time creating hypothetical miracles for you miserable sceptics. Shame, shame on the lot of you!

    • You spelt sceptics without a ‘k’. Now I’m prepared to consider that a miracle, albeit a small one.

      • You’re willing to accept lexicographical miracles but not mathematical ones. Honestly, what’s WRONG with you people? Carl Sagan would be soooo disappointed.

  2. But it’s not a miracle; it’s a mathematical inevitability! It’s not perversity to happen to understand probability better than some (many) other people, including Carl Sagan and the XKCD bloke, apparently.

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