Making Contact MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   Contact, by Carl Sagan, describes the impact on mankind of a message in the early l990's from an advanced civilization in outer space. The story is seen through the eyes of Eleanor Arroway, a radio astronomer who is director of Argus, a large radio telescope installation in New Mexico where the message is first received.

In a routine scan of the skies, Argus stumbles upon a structured sequence of prime numbers emanating from the Vega system, twenty-six light years away. The prime numbers appear to be acting as a beacon to attract the attention of the inhabitants of the Earth to something that will follow. By analyzing the sequence of numbers, which cycles back and repeats itself, the scientists at the facility uncover an electronic signal and a thirty thousand page document for building a machine. The electronic signal turns out to be a video of one of the first television signals ever broadcast, showing Adolf Hitler introducing the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Since the purpose of the Machine is unknown, the message is received by the world populace with mixed emotions. Some people claim it disproves God's existence, or is a message from the devil. The fearful believe it to be a Doomsday Machine that will end the world right on schedule, although there are several versions of when that will be. Others believe the Machine to be a vehicle that will facilitate continued contact and dialogue between the civilizations.

After various difficulties in assembling the many exotic components of the Machine, construction is finally completed in Hokkaido, Japan. On December 31, 1999, a multinational team boards the Machine, to begin the first step in a sequence of events that will mark one of the most astonishing encounters in the history of mankind.

Contact proves to be a quite absorbing novel because even though the events seem unlikely these days, the details and descriptions of characters conform to those in real life. The life of Eleanor Arroway is nicely interwoven with the plot, which produces startling but entertaining ending. n

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