For this special science, astronomy and sci-fi themed episode of Tech's Message, we're joined by three very knowledgeable guests to discuss the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, interplanetary travel, and the science behind science fiction, based on the themes raised in Carl Sagan's book and film Contact:
Dr Pamela Gay: Astrophysicist and Director of Technology and Citizen Science at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Director of CosmoQuest and co-host of science podcast Astronomy Cast. On Twitter at @starstryder.
In a nutshell, the story of Contact focussed on a scientist named Dr Ellie Arroway, working within the SETI facility at the Arecibo Observatory, who discovers a mysterious signal apparently coming from the star system Vega. It turns out the signal is being received as a repeating set of pulses that follows an ascending pattern of prime numbers - 2 pulses, then 3, then 5, 7, 11, and so on. Within the signal was an encoded message, which ultimately translated into being schematics for an inter-stellar transport vessel.
The film and the book differ on a few points but huge parts of both book and film detail the political, religious, financial, personal and existential issues surrounding first contact, and we'll discuss some of those themes across this 45-minute special episode.
Along with many other topics, we discuss: