orders of magnitude

Rick Knight (rknight@platinum.com)
Mon, 18 Aug 97 10:22:25 CST

Someone quoted Jodie Foster (er...Ellie Arroway, er...Robert
Zemeckis?...er, Carl Sagan???)
> "There are hundreds of billions of stars in
> the galaxy, and if only one in a million had
> planets, and if only one in a million of those
> had life, and if one in a million of those had
> intelligent life, there could be millions of
> intelligent civilizations out there."
> -Jodie Foster in Contact

Anton Sherwood wrote:

This was one of the most egregious science blunders in
an otherwise scientifically excellent movie. I turned to
my daughter as we listened to this an said "the numbers don't
work!" She already had a grimace on her face.

Rick Knight responds:

Contact is the only film I've seen more than once this summer.
Looking forward to seeing some other "blockbusters" for their mindless
entertainment value, I chose instead to see Contact again...and again
(just three times, I'm not nuts! <G>). Anyway, not knowing anything
about the math or the astronomical accuracy (and personally not
caring), I still find the statement, regardless of its lack of
precision, awesome as merely a metaphor. For what it's worth, I like
to think it opened up, a little further, the minds of a few people who
viewed it. To use the basis of empirical truth against intuitive
faith was an ideal foundation for this film. I don't know if it was
Sagan or Zemeckis or both who crafted the mentality of a child who,
having lost both parents, looks to the heavens for purpose and

I remember thinking when she gave that line that "millions" was much
more than necessary for our purposes.