Contact (1997)

 

Concept featured in film: Relativity

Location of clip: DVD: 1:20:35 - 1:22:01

Play Flickclip Here

Summary of clip: The scene opens with Dr. Arroway (Jodi Foster) being considered as one of the candidates to travel in the alien ship. Next, we see Dr. Airway having a conversation with Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey) about possible effects of traveling at the speed of light. Palmer poses the statement that if Ellie were to be nominated to take the trip, and if she were to return safely to earth, she would have aged at a much slower rate than anyone else on earth. In other words, by the time she returned all of her friends and loved ones would have passed away long ago, yet she would have only aged a few years.

Connection of flickclip to the concept:This is a good clip to introduce the tricky concept of relativity and time dilation.

Suggestions to teachers:
1. Suggested questions for students when viewing the clip:

a. Have students explain proper time and proper length.

b. When an object is moving at/very near the speed of light, in which reference frame is time dilated: in the moving object's frame or in a stationary observer's frame?

c. When an object is moving at/very near the speed of light, in which reference frame is length contracted: in the moving object's frame or in a stationary observer's frame?

d. In the movie, it is stated that upon Ellie's return, she would be younger than her earthbound friends. Explain why.

2. Have students do a research project on Einstein and his theories (Especially Relativity).