What's the difference between the real Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in Mountain View and the agency portrayed in the 1997 movie "Contact" starring Jodie Foster?
Not much, except that the real SETI has never detected a signal from another planet, according to Jill Tarter, the scientist who inspired Foster's character.
Tarter, SETI's former director, will introduce a screening of "Contact" on Sunday at Modesto's State Theatre and give a talk about her work at the launch of the theater's new Science on Screen film series.
She will talk about Carl Sagan's motivations for the movie and the science behind SETI programs around the world. Tarter will also discuss the reasons the movie director changed the ending from Sagan's original noveland why there has not yet been a sequel.
The State Theatre started the Science on Screen series with a $7,000 grant from the Alfred B. Sloan Foundation. Other films planned in the series are "Robot and Frank"(March 10), "The Day After Tomorrow" (April 14) and "Jurassic Park" (May 12).
"The goal is to help viewers understand the science and the science fiction that is in each of these films," said Richard Anderson, a retired microbiology professor from Modesto Junior College who helped organize the film series.
The program is intended for anyone in middle school and up. There's no gratuitous sex, violence or explosions in the movie, Anderson said. "It's very clean, classic Sagan."
The MJC Astronomy Club will bring telescopes in the lobby and will set up a slide show of deep space objects. A ham radio operator also will bring in equipment.
The other films in the series will include informational displays in the lobby, as well.
"I hope that (the film series) will offer an opportunity to see that there is science that is in the movies dished out to us by Hollywood and many of them, the commentators are going to point out gross errors especially things that are not scientific," Anderson said.
"For each of them, I'm hoping the explicators will show us new science within these films."
WHAT: Science on Screen series: "Contact"
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: State Theatre, 1307 J St., Modesto
TICKETS: $8 general, $5 students with ID
CALL: (209) 527-4697