In Douglas Adams satirical bizarre sci-fi novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, the answer to the question of the ultimate meaning of life is sobering: it is simply “42” – nothing more and nothing less. In the novel, “42” is the answer given by a supercomputer after several million years of computing time to the question “life, the universe and everything”, with which the protagonists ultimately have nothing to do because the question was too vaguely posed.
The question of life, the universe and everything
After 7.5 million years Deep Thought finally gave the long-awaited answer “Forty-two” and the indication that the question was not aptly formulated and only from the right question would open up the meaning of this answer. “That was not a question,” replies Deep Thought to the disappointed faces.
“Only when you know the question will you know what the answer means,” Deep Thought explains, giving the advice: to find out the “ultimate question” after the last of all answers, an even bigger and better computer of “infinite complexity “, Which needs another 10 million years of computing time – but the project is not crowned with success in the end. Because the new computer, nothing but the planet earth, can not complete the task,
The secret to the number 42
Like a common thread, the secret of the number also extends through the following four novels. However, it was never finally aired and therefore gave rise to all sorts of speculation. Especially in the Internet culture, “42” achieved cult status and the use of this number became very popular.
For example, the number 42 is often used by programmers as a magic number – similar to 0815 – as a fixed number, which anyone can see to have no deeper meaning, just an example of any value. In addition: If one enters Google in the search field “the answer to life, the universe and everything”, so appears as result of the Google calculator “the answer to life, the universe and everything = 42”.
Author Douglas Adams wrote in a Usenet article in 1993 to ask why the answer to the question of everything is “42”: “Quite simply. It was a joke. It had to be a number, a normal, small number, and I chose it. Binary representations, base 13, Tibetan monks, that’s all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, looked in the garden, and thought ‘let’s go’. I wrote it. End of the story.
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was first published in 1979 under the original title, the German translation was available in 1981 and is available from Heyne Verlag. Later, the book was filmed and came in 2005 in the cinemas. Some fans criticized that the film initially adheres to the literary model, but later increasingly lapses into slapstick.
The book contains many references to supposed interpretations of the number. In the second part ( The Restaurant at the End of the Universe ), the protagonist Arthur Dent, stranded on the prehistoric earth, succeeds in questioning some early humans with the help of a self- carved scrabble game from which he casually draws letters Allusion to a striking image of the theory of evolution, in which the result of evolution is compared with the result that comes out when an infinite number of monkeys write endlessly on a typewriter ( Infinite-Monkey-Theorem).
Paradoxically, the Scrabble comes up with a meaningful phrase that reads, “How many is nine times six.” The apparent discrepancy between the answer and this question is explained by the fact that on the prehistoric Earth the humanity that was just beginning to germinate, and who still knew the right question, was being supplanted by another civilization.
In the third book it is indicated that knowing the answer and the related question mutually exclusive and never both be known in the same universe at the same time can .
The alleged mystery about the number runs like a red thread through the following volumes of the novel series and gave rise to many speculations about their origin. Especially in Usenet and Internet culture , “42” quickly became a household word and its use became very popular. As in the book, the number has been repeatedly attributed to the new meanings and myths, as the book is no final resolution.
So developed in Usenet discussions u. a. mathematical speculations such as: The formula “nine times six” would yield 42 in a 13-rank system (numbers without index are in the decimal system): ,
Or the choice of the “42” was explained with the regular pattern of the binary notation (numbers without index are noted in the decimal system):
The emergence of the number clarified the author Douglas Adams in a Usenet contribution in 1993.
Worth knowing about the 42:
- In software development, the number 42 – similar to 0815 and 4711 – is often used by programmers as a magic number, so as a fixed number, anyone can see that he has no deeper meaning, but is just an example of any value.
- Google also answers this fictitious question correctly in its origin. If you enter the answer to life, the universe and everything in the search field, you get the answer to life, the universe and everything = 42 as the result of the Google calculator. The same goes for the internet service WolframAlpha.
- The British music group Level 42 also referred to the naming in the number mentioned in the novel.
- The computer games Gothic 1 and Gothic 2 use the 42 to disable a “Test Mode”: If you enter “42” in the character menu, the text “What was the question?” Appears at the top left of the screen.
- The first independent, based on Jurix version of the Linux distribution of SUSE Linux GmbH was published in May 1996 under the name SuSE Linux with the version number 4.2. The version number came after a long discussion: since they rejected the version number 1.1, they preferred the number to the number 42, the answer to the “question of all questions” from Douglas Adams’ novel Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
- In the election campaign for the local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia 2014, the pirates “42” placarded without further content.
- Kabbalists made a gematrical connection to the so-called “trigram” (the word with the 3 letters), “cst”, as an abbreviation for Curiosity (curiosity), Science (science) and Technology (technology), also called “evolution formula”, When adding the corresponding digits in the alphabet (c = 3, s = 19, t = 20), the result is surprisingly “42”. However, this circumstance is most likely due only to synchronicity.
The author: Douglas Adams
The British writer Douglas Adams was born on March 11, 1952 in Cambridge and grew up in Brentwood, Essex. Already at school, he was very interested in science and won a literary competition. He studied at Wolfson Colleges in Cambridge, where he also met members of the comedy troupe Monty Python. When he left college in 1974, he wanted to be a writer and worked occasionally at “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.
His breakthrough came in 1977 with the science fiction radio program “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, which was broadcast in 1978 by the British radio station BBC Radio 4. From 1979 to 1982, the series was published in a greatly modified and expanded form, first as a trilogy in book form, the bestseller and cult status. In 1984, a fourth, followed
Sarcastic science fiction satire
The novels, written in sarcastic, satirical style, play in absurd, alien worlds, but in many respects (such as bureaucracy, envy societies, economies) hardly differ from the real world. Because of the film adaptation of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Adams moved to California in 1999. Douglas Adams died of a heart attack in a gym on May 11, 2001 in Santa Barbara, California. He was married and had a daughter. His grave is in London.
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