The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything

To start with, you need to know about the background of all of this. It starts, much in the way religions do, in a book. Including an ever-so-slightly paraphrased bit, it reads as follows…

There are of course many problems connected with life, of which some of the most popular are Why are people born? Why do they die? Why do they want to spend so much of the intervening time wearing digital watches?

Many many millions of years ago a race of hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings (whose physical manifestation in their own pan-dimensional universe is not dissimilar to our own) got so fed up with the constant bickering about the meaning of life which used to interrupt their favourite pastime of Brockian Ultra Cricket (a curious game which involved suddenly hitting people for no readily apparent reason and then running away) that they decided to sit down and solve their problems once and for all.

And to this end they built themselves a stupendous super computer which was so  amazingly intelligent that even before the data banks had been connected up it had started from I think therefore I am and got as far as the existence of rice pudding and income tax before anyone managed to turn it off.

It was the size of a small city.

Its main console was installed in a specially designed executive office, mounted on an enormous executive desk of finest ultramahagony topped with rich ultrared leather. The dark carpeting was discreetly sumptuous, exotic pot plants and tastefully engraved
prints of the principal computer programmers and their families were deployed liberally about the room, and stately windows looked out upon a tree-lined public square.

On the day of the Great On-Turning two soberly dressed programmers with brief cases arrived and were shown discreetly into the office. They were aware that this day they would represent their entire race in its greatest moment, but they conducted themselves
calmly and quietly as they seated themselves deferentially before the desk, opened their brief cases and took out their leather-bound notebooks.

Their names were Lunkwill and Fook.

For a few moments they sat in respectful silence, then, after exchanging a quiet glance with Fook, Lunkwill leaned forward and touched a small black panel.

The subtlest of hums indicated that the massive computer was now in total active mode. After a pause it spoke to them in a voice rich resonant and deep.

It said: “What is this great task for which I, Deep Thought, the second greatest computer in the Universe of Time and Space have been called into existence?”

Lunkwill and Fook glanced at each other in surprise.

“Your task, O Computer…” began Fook.

“No, wait a minute, this isn’t right,” said Lunkwill, worried. “We distinctly designed this computer to be the greatest one ever and we’re not making do with second best. Deep Thought,” he addressed the computer, “are you not as we designed you to be, the greatest
most powerful computer in all time?”

“I described myself as the second greatest,” intoned Deep Thought, “and such I am.”

Another worried look passed between the two programmers. Lunkwill cleared his throat.

“There must be some mistake,” he said, “are you not a greatest computer than the Milliard Gargantubrain which can count all the atoms in a star in a millisecond?”

“The Milliard Gargantubrain?” said Deep Thought with unconcealed contempt. “A mere abacus – mention it not.”

“And are you not,” said Fook leaning anxiously forward, “a greater analyst than the Googleplex Star Thinker in the Seventh Galaxy of Light and Ingenuity which can calculate the trajectory of every single dust particle throughout a five-week Dangrabad Beta sand blizzard?”

“A five-week sand blizzard?” said Deep Thought haughtily. “You ask this of me who have contemplated the very vectors of the atoms in the Big Bang itself? Molest me not with this pocket calculator stuff.”

The two programmers sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment. Then Lunkwill leaned forward again.

“But are you not,” he said, “a more fiendish disputant than the Great Hyperlobic Omni-Cognate Neutron Wrangler of Ciceronicus 12, the Magic and Indefatigable?”

“The Great Hyperlobic Omni-Cognate Neutron Wrangler,” said Deep Thought thoroughly rolling the r’s, “could talk all four legs off an Arcturan MegaDonkey – but only I could persuade it to go for a walk afterwards.”

“Then what,” asked Fook, “is the problem?”

“There is no problem,” said Deep Thought with magnificent ringing tones. “I am simply the second greatest computer in the Universe of Space and Time.”

“But the second?” insisted Lunkwill. “Why do you keep saying the second? You’re surely not thinking of the Multicorticoid Perspicutron Titan Muller are you? Or the Pondermatic? Or the…”

Contemptuous lights flashed across the computer’s console.

“I spare not a single unit of thought on these cybernetic simpletons!” he boomed. “I speak of none but the computer that is to come after me!”

Fook was losing patience. He pushed his notebook aside and muttered, “I think this is getting needlessly messianic.”

“You know nothing of future time,” pronounced Deep Thought, “and yet in my teeming circuitry I can navigate the infinite delta streams of future probability and see that there must one day come a computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to
calculate, but which it will be my fate eventually to design.”

Fook sighed heavily and glanced across to Lunkwill.

“Can we get on and ask the question?” he said.

Lunkwill motioned him to wait.

“What computer is this of which you speak?” he asked.

“I will speak of it no further in this present time,” said Deep Thought. “Now. Ask what else of me you will that I may function. Speak.”

They shrugged at each other. Fook composed himself.

“O Deep Thought Computer,” he said, “the task we have designed
you to perform is this. We want you to tell us…” he paused,”… the
Answer!”

“The answer?” said Deep Thought. “The answer to what?”

“Life!” urged Fook.

“The Universe!” said Lunkwill.

“Everything!” they said in chorus.

Deep Thought paused for a moment’s reflection.

“Tricky,” he said finally.

“But can you do it?”

Again, a significant pause.

“Yes,” said Deep Thought, “I can do it.”

“There is an answer?” said Fook with breathless excitement.”

“A simple answer?” added Lunkwill.

“Yes,” said Deep Thought. “Life, the Universe, and Everything.

There is an answer. But,” he added, “I’ll have to think about it.”

A sudden commotion destroyed the moment: the door flew open and two angry men wearing the coarse faded – blue robes and belts of the Cruxwan University burst into the room, thrusting aside the ineffectual flunkies who tried to bar their way.

“We demand admission!” shouted the younger of the two men elbowing a pretty young secretary in the throat.

“Come on,” shouted the older one, “you can’t keep us out!” He pushed a junior programmer back through the door.

“We demand that you can’t keep us out!” bawled the younger one, though he was now firmly inside the room and no further attempts were being made to stop him.

“Who are you?” said Lunkwill, rising angrily from his seat. “What do you want?”

“I am Majikthise!” announced the older one.

“And I demand that I am Vroomfondel!” shouted the younger one.

Majikthise turned on Vroomfondel. “It’s alright,” he explained angrily, “you don’t need to demand that.”

“Alright!” bawled Vroomfondel banging on an nearby desk. “I am Vroomfondel, and that is not a demand, that is a solid fact! What we demand is solid facts!”

“No we don’t!” exclaimed Majikthise in irritation. “That is precisely what we don’t demand!”

Scarcely pausing for breath, Vroomfondel shouted, “We don’t demand solid facts! What we demand is a total absence of solid facts.

I demand that I may or may not be Vroomfondel!”

“But who the devil are you?” exclaimed an outraged Fook.

“We,” said Majikthise, “are Philosophers.”

“Though we may not be,” said Vroomfondel waving a warning finger at the programmers.

“Yes we are,” insisted Majikthise. “We are quite definitely here as representatives of the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries and Other Thinking Persons, and we want this machine off, and we want it off now!”

“What’s the problem?” said Lunkwill.

“I’ll tell you what the problem is mate,” said Majikthise, “demarcation, that’s the problem!”

“We demand,” yelled Vroomfondel, “that demarcation may or may not be the problem!”

“You just let the machines get on with the adding up,” warned Majikthise, “and we’ll take care of the eternal verities thank you very much. You want to check your legal position you do mate. Under law the Quest for Ultimate Truth is quite clearly the inalienable prerogative of your working thinkers. Any bloody machine goes and actually finds it and we’re straight out of a job aren’t we? I mean what’s the use of our sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives us his bleeding phone number the next morning?”

“That’s right!” shouted Vroomfondel, “we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”

Suddenly a stentorian voice boomed across the room.

“Might I make an observation at this point?” inquired Deep Thought.

“We’ll go on strike!” yelled Vroomfondel.

“That’s right!” agreed Majikthise. “You’ll have a national Philosopher’s strike on your hands!”

The hum level in the room suddenly increased as several ancillary bass driver units, mounted in sedately carved and varnished cabinet speakers around the room, cut in to give Deep Thought’s voice a little more power.

“All I wanted to say,” bellowed the computer, “is that my circuits are now irrevocably committed to calculating the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything – ” he paused and satisfied himself that he now had everyone’s attention, before
continuing more quietly, “but the programme will take me a little while to run.”

Fook glanced impatiently at his watch.

“How long?” he said.

“Seven and a half million years,” said Deep Thought.

Lunkwill and Fook blinked at each other.

“Seven and a half million years…!” they cried in chorus.

“Yes,” declaimed Deep Thought, “I said I’d have to think about it, didn’t I? And it occurs to me that running a programme like this is bound to create an enormous amount of popular publicity for the whole area of philosophy in general. Everyone’s going to have their
own theories about what answer I’m eventually to come up with, and who better to capitalize on that media market than you yourself? So long as you can keep disagreeing with each other violently enough and slagging each other off in the popular press, you can keep yourself on the gravy train for life. How does that sound?”

The two philosophers gaped at him.

“Bloody hell,” said Majikthise, “now that is what I call thinking. Here Vroomfondel, why do we never think of things like that?”

“Dunno,” said Vroomfondel in an awed whisper, “think our brains must be too highly trained Majikthise.”

So saying, they turned on their heels and walked out of the door and into a lifestyle beyond their wildest dreams.

 

… (seven and a half million years later) …

 

A man standing on a brightly dressed dais before the building which clearly dominated the square was addressing the crowd over a Tannoy.

“O people waiting in the Shadow of Deep Thought!” he cried out. “Honoured Descendants of Vroomfondel and Majikthise, the Greatest and Most Truly Interesting Pundits the Universe has ever known… The Time of Waiting is over!”

Wild cheers broke out amongst the crowd. Flags, streamers and wolf whistles sailed through the air. The narrower streets looked rather like centipedes rolled over on their backs and frantically waving their legs in the air.

“Seven and a half million years our race has waited for this Great and Hopefully Enlightening Day!” cried the cheer leader. “The Day of the Answer!”

Hurrahs burst from the ecstatic crowd.

“Never again,” cried the man, “never again will we wake up in the morning and think Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Does it really, cosmically speaking, matter if I don’t get up and go to work?

For today we will finally learn once and for all the plain and simple answer to all these nagging little problems of Life, the Universe and Everything!”

As the crowd erupted once again, we move down towards one of the large stately windows on the first floor of the building behind the dais from which the speaker was addressing the crowd.

In seven and a half million years the room had been well looked after and cleaned regularly every century or so. The ultramahagony desk was worn at the edges, the carpet a little faded now, but the large computer terminal sat in sparkling glory on the desk’s leather top, as bright as if it had been constructed yesterday.

Two severely dressed men sat respectfully before the terminal and waited.

“The time is nearly upon us,” said one, and Arthur was surprised to see a word suddenly materialize in thin air just by the man’s neck. The word was Loonquawl, and it flashed a couple of times and the disappeared again. Before Arthur was able to assimilate this the other man spoke and the word Phouchg appeared by his neck.

“Seventy-five thousand generations ago, our ancestors set this program in motion,” the second man said, “and in all that time we will be the first to hear the computer speak.”

“An awesome prospect, Phouchg,” agreed the first man, and Arthur suddenly realized that he was watching a recording with subtitles.

“We are the ones who will hear,” said Phouchg, “the answer to the great question of Life…!”

“The Universe…!” said Loonquawl.

“And Everything…!”

“Shhh,” said Loonquawl with a slight gesture, “I think Deep Thought is preparing to speak!”

There was a moment’s expectant pause whilst panels slowly came to life on the front of the console. Lights flashed on and off experimentally and settled down into a businesslike pattern. A soft low hum came from the communication channel.

“Good morning,” said Deep Thought at last.

“Er… Good morning, O Deep Thought,” said Loonquawl nervously, “do you have… er, that is…”

“An answer for you?” interrupted Deep Thought majestically. “Yes. I have.”

The two men shivered with expectancy. Their waiting had not been in vain.

“There really is one?” breathed Phouchg.

“There really is one,” confirmed Deep Thought.

“To Everything? To the great Question of Life, the Universe and
Everything?”

“Yes.”

Both of the men had been trained for this moment, their lives had been a preparation for it, they had been selected at birth as those who would witness the answer, but even so they found themselves gasping and squirming like excited children.

“And you’re ready to give it to us?” urged Loonquawl.

“I am.”

“Now?”

“Now,” said Deep Thought.

They both licked their dry lips.

“Though I don’t think,” added Deep Thought, “that you’re going to like it.”

“Doesn’t matter!” said Phouchg. “We must know it! Now!”

“Now?” inquired Deep Thought.

“Yes! Now…”

“Alright,” said the computer and settled into silence again. The two men fidgeted. The tension was unbearable.

“You’re really not going to like it,” observed Deep Thought.

“Tell us!”

“Alright,” said Deep Thought. “The Answer to the Great Question…”

“Yes…!”

“Of Life, the Universe and Everything…” said Deep Thought.

“Yes…!”

“Is…” said Deep Thought, and paused.

“Yes…!”

“Is…”

“Yes…!!!…?”

“Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.

It was 1988 when I read this for the first time. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by the inestimable (and unfortunately late) Mr Douglas Adams became etched into my consciousness, into my very being, my way of thinking. Things would never be the same again – at least not for me, nor for anyone within my (thankfully fairly limited) circle of influence.

This year marks the 42nd Anniversary of the publication of Mr Adams’ book, and this is the 42nd blog entry I’ve added to my site. Below you will find an overview of what I’d like to call “42 in real life”: Occurrences of this geek culture number In Real Life, whether influenced by Douglas or not (and believe you me, sometimes they are!).

But first a final bit of background.

In “ST NEWS” disk magazine Volume 9 Issue 1 (released in March 1994) I had a first look at what the figure “42” meant in real, ordinary life, show you what this figure meant in the world as we know it – for if you paid attention, you would notice that the number “42” occurs all the time! It was the result a year of research, and it was dedicated to Douglas Adams, originator of The Number and the person to become 42 on the exact date on which that issue of “ST NEWS” was released. The final (July 1996) “ST NEWS” issue saw an enhanced and overhauled version of the “42” occurrence overview. More trivial or otherwise less meaningful entries had been discarded and new quality material added (also thanks to David Jones and Rod Kent).

Below you will find the current incarnation (version 3, if you will) of the article, additionally containing miscellaneous occurrences of the number “42” that I more or less meticulously kept track of in the quarter of a century that has passed since the previous version. It will be second only to the one that will come after it, in the 42nd Anniversary edition of “ST NEWS” that is due for release in seven and a half million…no…seven years and two months.

  • Let’s start with 42nd Street, which is a main and very popular two-way thoroughfare in New York, with many landmarks on it.
  • “42nd Street” is also the title of a film made in the US in 1933 by Lloyd Bacon, starring Ginger Rogers.
  • In a particular episode of the US TV series “Beverly Hills 90210”, the Walshes are reading a book about sexuality or something, and they are surprised to read that “60% of men over 42 think of younger women.”
  • In Japan there is a ritual involving the dragging around of 500-pound concrete penises and consumption of lots of alcohol. This penis is carried by loads of men who are 42 years old, which is considered to be the Japanese male’s age of turnaround (i.e. it can only go downhill from then on).
  • Strangely enough, the number 42 also seems to have deathly connotations in Japan. Some time ago, the first Japanese Formula One racing car driver crashed and killed himself in car with the number 42. The number 42 seems to be banned on Japanese license plates because of that.
  • In “Star Trek – The Next Generation”, the starship Enterprise has 42 decks.
  • One of the most notorious cracking groups on the Atari ST in the olden days was called “42 Crew”.
  • In “Dead Poets Society”, Robin Williams at one time says “Byron gets a 42, but you can’t dance to it”.
  • In that same film, the University is “in its 42nd year”.
  • The Iron Maiden twin CD-single “Two Minutes to Midnight” + “Aces High” (released in 1990) is exactly 42 minutes long including that brainless Nicko McBrain babble at the end.
  • To limit costs, it is possible to have certain services only at what are described as “the big National Railroad stations” in the Netherlands. There are 42 of those in the Netherlands.
  • The Oldest Rule In The Book (as mentioned in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, the courtroom scene), which is “All persons more than a mile high to leave the court”, is rule number 42. For a long time, this was thought to be the source of Douglas Adams’ number, too, but then it was revealed in an interview that actually it was just a totally random number (consciously, anyway).
  • Metallica’s excellent single “One” was the highest new entry in the Dutch 1991’s Top 100 of all times, entering at #42 (at was at #6 in 1992, and #1 in 1993!).
  • The heaviest man ever to live in the Netherlands, Jan Cleaszoon Clees (landlord of a pub in The Hague, who weighed 223 kilos, so telleth the Dutch version of the Guiness Book of Records), died in 1612 at the age of 42.
  • The password expiration time under Microsoft Windows NT is 42 days.
  • The longest recorded session of continuously talking in sign language took 42 hours (done by Wendy Fisher in New South Wales, Australia, in August 1987; she spoke an average of more than 45 words per minute).
  • The world’s largest church dome is that of the St. Peter church in Vatican City, which has a diameter of 42 metres.
  • A few occurrences of the number 42 in Stephen King’s “It” are the fact that Tom Rogan worked at King & Landry Public Relations at 42nd Street, and that the oldest person present at the fire at the Black Spot – Alan Snopes – was aged 42.
  • In Stephen King’s short story “Dolan’s Cadillac”, the ‘grave’ that he intends to bury Dolan and his Cadillac in is 42 feet long.
  • In the case of a bitch (i.e. a female dog) still with young, her puppies can be infected intra-uterinally by the Toxocara canis bacteria as of the 42nd day.
  • In Olympic female judo, there is a class division between lighter than 42 kilogram or 42 kilogram and higher.
  • In the mini series “Passion in Paradise”, the character Harry Oakes’ car has the license plate “93 42”.
  • On the date of 43-9-4242, the Belcerebons of Kakrafoon Kappa (a very intelligent race that never spoke so as to give their brain a chance to work) were officially verdicted to be “Arrogant Bastards” and given the worst of all social diseases – Telepathy (so proclaimeth one of the many animated Guide sequence in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” TV series).
  • Elvis Presley, the King, was 42 when he got abducted by aliens (or when he died, or whatever).
  • By a strange coincidence, 42 was also the age at which Cladys Smith, The King’s mother, died.
  • Saddam Hussayn’s (never mind how you spell it exactly) army during the 1991 Gulf War was divided in 42 divisions.
  • Nelson Mandela was freed on the 42nd day of 1990 (at 4:14 local time). On that same day, the last official issue of ST NEWS, Volume 5 Issue 1, was released.
  • On the 1990 Yesterday & Today (Y&T) rock band compilation album, “Best of ’81 to ’85”, the first track lasts precisely 42 seconds.
  • Guatemala takes up 42,042 square miles of the world.
  • In the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (the actual device, not the books) the amendments start off on page 42,000,000 (directly following the index which takes up most of the Guide, having started at page 577,000).
  • The highly regular binary value of 101010 is decimal 42.
  • The second (and, unfortunately, last) issue of Tom Zunder’s Atari ST disk magazine “Interleave” had 42 articles.
  • The Calixtus Catacomb in Rome has 42 niches.
  • The scale or fretboard (the bit where the left hand fingers are put down, with all the frets on it) of the Yngwie Malmsteen Signature Fender Stratocaster electric guitar has a width of 42 mm (1.654″) at the nut (i.e. the bit farthest away from the guitar body).
  • Douglas Adams’ “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish” has 42 chapters if you count the separate prologue and epilogue too.
  • Bullfrog’s highly successfull platform game “Flood”, released by Electronic Arts, had 42 levels.
  • Douglas Adams’ fifth part of the “Hithhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” trilogy, “Mostly Harmless”, was released in hardcover in the 42nd week of 1992, during which time I was in England in the Plaza Hotel in London (Princes Square 42!).
  • “Cleopatra’s Needle”, one of the sights at London’s river Thames and supposedly made aeons ago in ancient Egypt, was “given to England in the 42nd year of the reign of Queen Victoria” (quoted from the engravings on its pedestal).
  • The Atari Falcon 030’s extended joystick connections allow the connection of total of six joysticks, or four paddles, a light gun and up to 42 extension buttons (which I suppose are alternatives to fire buttons or something, I wouldn’t know what they mean otherwise). Info taken from a Falcon 030 promotion brochure.
  • When a program/data cartridge is inserted in the Atari ST/TT/Falcon’s cartridge port, its officially documented first required ‘magic’ longword value in order to be recognized by the Operating System as such is hexadecimal $ABCDEF42.
  • In “Raw Deal”, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, there are two mob families. The limousine of the main honcho of one of them, a guy by the name of Lamanski, has license plate “4242”.
  • In the second part of the “Star Trek – The Next Generation” episode “Best of Both Worlds”, at a certain stage where they are all hunting Borg they say they are “at 42 minutes from earth”.
  • The CD “Serious Beats – Volume 5” has 42 tracks (mind you, this information comes from someone I would not like to identify with, i.e. Tjeerd Bruinsma who is also known under many nicknames ending with “-ush”).
  • Similarly, the triple CD “Fantasia – The House Collection Volume 2” has 42 tracks.
  • In a TV documentary about allergies and the involvement of the English Breakspear Hospital in the treatment of allergy patients, one of the women interviewed (who had a very disruptive baby due to it being allergic to all kinds of things) said, and this sounded totally incredible, that she “had grown 42 years older in 12 months”.
  • Ostrich’ eggs hatch 42 days after having been laid (the eggs, not the ostrich).
  • The average life expectancy for a male inhabitant of the country of Guinea is 42 years (which is actually rather low).
  • In H.P. Lovecraft’s tale “The Haunter in the Dark”, the protagonist is the first one to enter the dark and mysterious church (the Haunter’s abode, so it turns out) in 42 years.
  • Thomas F. Malone, leading character in Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook”, was 42 years old in that story.
  • In H.P. Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”, Joe Slater had been in “torment and diurnal prison” by the alien agency for “forty-two of your terrestrial years”.
  • In 1992 there were 4.2 million CD players in the Netherlands (70% of all households had one).
  • During a recent tour, Metallica’s lead guitarist Kirk Hammett wore a T-shirt which had a skull, the words “Las Cavaleras” and the number “42” on it. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, though.
  • When the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran ashore the Alaska coast in 1989 it spilled 42,000 tons of oil.
  • Princess Anne got re-married in 1992 (the first British monarchial person to get re-married after a divorce in over 400 years worth of British history) at the age of 42. At that same age she got a baby, too.
  • In “Mississippi Burning”, at a certain stage you get to see a family watching television. They are watching a television show where someone has just become the Cheddar Cheese Champion, “having beaten 42 other entrants”.
  • This sentence contains exactly forty-two letters.
  • Rainbow’s CD “Difficult to Cure” lasts exactly 42 excellent minutes.
  • The ‘putter’ golf club in the Atari Lynx handheld games console game “Awesome Golf” has a maximum hitting distance of 42 yards.
  • In the episode “My Desperate Valentine” of the American TV series “Beverly Hills 90210”, Kelly Preston (played by Jenny Garth) wears a T-shirt with “42” on the back and front, in large print.
  • In “Boyz in the Hood”, one of the main protagonists is called Rick. In a scene playing in his younger years he is wearing a football T-shirt with the number 42 on it.
  • In a similar film, this time by Spike Lee and called “Do the Right Thing”, one of the characters, Mookie, walks around in a Dodgers number 42 baseball T-shirt.
  • In one of my second year English course books, Jonathan Kaye’s “Phonology – A Cognitive View”, he uses the sentence “I ate 42 oranges” to demonstrate some syntactic property of a sentence.
  • The only electric railroad system in Cuba, the Hershey Express that was originally set up in 1915, has 42 railway stations (it goes from Havana to Matantas and back).
  • On the 42nd day of 1858 the Virgin Mary appeared to three girls (among which the famous Bernadette Soubirous, later Sainted) at Lourdes in France.
  • In an episode of “Married with Children” (title nor sequence number known) where Al tries to get rid of his old car to buy a new one, he goes to a car salesman and takes with him a shoebox in which he has put 5,000 dollars, 10 years worth of savings. When he looks in it he only finds 800, because Peggy had discovered the shoebox and spent the other 4,200 dollars of Al’s savings!
  • In another episode (of which name and sequence number are again not known) where Al competes in this 65+ athletics competition, he gets back home with a ridiculous outfit that originally cost US$ 3. Upon having used his illegally acquired 65+ discount card, however, he proudly exclaims he got it for 42 cents!
  • In Terry Pratchett’s “Strata”, mention is made of a frog-like four-armed race called the Kung. They have 42 words for “rain”.
  • In the British TV series “Grace and Favour” (the follow-up to “Are you being Served?”) at a certain moment Mrs. Slocombe runs into her ex-husband, Cecil G. Slocombe. She mentions him having run out on her 42 years ago.
  • When King Baudouin of Belgium died at 62 on July 31st 1993, he had been Belgian king for 42 years.
  • More or less incidentally, that year also saw the 42nd Miss Universe Beauty Pageant.
  • During the Norwegian Highschool Graduation festivities known as “Rüss” (I seem to recall), Ronny Hatlemark’s Rüss-name was “Forty-Two” (Ronny was our Norwegian ST NEWS distributor and still a good friend). The last four digits of his mobile phone number, incidentally (though probably not at all coincidentally), are “4242”.
  • In Jonathan Demme’s “Silence of the Lambs”, the Buffalo Bill character wants to skin girls who have U.S. size 14 – that’s European size 42.
  • The setting: The pilot episode of the US police series “Sunset Beat”. When at one instance a colleague cop asks some of the heroes, Chesbro and Coolidge, how come they make more successful arrests then any other cop on the beat, they reply: “Find out for yourself. We give courses at US$ 42 per semester”.
  • The major family (of which the name is Alberts) in the Dutch TV soap “Goede Tijden Slechte Tijden” (translation “Good Times Bad Times”) lives at house number 42.
  • In the “Dragonsdawn” book in Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Pern” series, it’s mentioned that originally 42 mares with foal were taken from earth to the new world of Pern. Also in the same book, it comes to pass that on the 42nd day after the first fall of thread the first gather was organised, that the first batch of dragon embryos they constructed consisted of 42 specimens, and a bit further they mention someone who is technically in charge of the program on file in the biology Mark 42 computer.
  • In a 1993 (Volume 27) issue of the “Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London” there is an article called “The History of the 42-Club”. The name refers to the year of its founding, 1942, and they discuss various topics of interest to physicians.
  • The special leatherbound version of Metallica’s “Metallica” CD (with pic of guitarist James Hetfield’s head on the leather sleeve) has Vertigo catalogue number 510 022-42.
  • Cicero, the roman statesman and orator, died in 42 BC.
  • Almost half of the 28 acres of the British Elstree studio (where, among others, “Indiana Jones”, “Star Wars” and “Superman” were made) were sold to a supermarket chain in 1993. The price was US$ 42 million.
  • The Royal Rotterdam Zoological Garden (called “Blijdorp Zoo” or “Diergaarde Blijdorp”), a zoo in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is located on a 42 acre site (as of 1938).
  • The first criminal who Charles Bronson kills in “Death Wish” is identified by the police as someone who has already once served a 42 months’ suspended sentence.
  • In “Best Friends” (Norman Jewison, 1982, US), starring Goldie Hawn and Burt Reynolds, the Babson family (Burt’s folks) have been married for 42 years.
  • In 1862 King Edward of England purchased property called Sandringham Hall. When the sanitary provisions had to be overhauled, the “Report on the Drainage of Sandringham House” of February 18th 1886 occupied “42 pages of meticulously executed handwriting”.
  • Gaius Cassius Longinus, chief conspirator in the murder of Julius Ceasar, died in 42 BC.
  • The Netherlands has the dubious honour of being the third European country when it comes to the amount of people who smoke. A total of 42% of the Dutch populace does it.
  • According to the Annals of Tigernach one of the earliest and most capable Irish kings, one by the name of Cormac, ruled for 42 years.
  • In the 1992/1993 New Year’s Celebrations that traditionally take place at London’s Trafalgar Square, where a huge gathering of thousands of people usually forms, 42 people were wounded.
  • In “Sleepless in Seattle”, when the little son of Sam (i.e. of Tom Hanks) and his female friend want to put together money for him to fly to New York to meet Annie (i.e. Meg Ryan), the boy finds he has 80 dollars; the girl discovers she has 42.
  • The Russian battle chopper that crash-lands after having let Rambo and the others escape in “Rambo III” has ID number 42.
  • Clint Eastwood is quite wealthy. Reason for this is the fact that he does not request a fixed salary when signing a film contract. Instead he just wants a specific percentage of the film’s profit. This just so happens to be 42%.
  • In the film “10” starring Dudley Moore and Bo Derek, the former plays a character that has his midlife crisis at 42.
  • In the film “The Fugitive” (with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones) the bus from which Dr Richard Kimble escapes has number 42.
  • A bit later in film “The Fugitive”, when Kimble is examining things in the orthopedic department, for no particular reason there’s a white note with “42” written in red on the clipboard.
  • In “Police Academy III”, at a certain instant one of the two competing academies is not doing very well. One of the characters then says “it’s Mauser 42 – Lassard 0”, indicating they are the ones that have not done too well.
  • The Llamasoft shareware game “Revenge of the Mutant Camels” has 42 levels.
  • British painter and nonsense author, Edward Lear (1812-1888) published a series of 42 coloured parrot images in 1832.
  • Dutch-born British spy and double agent for the communists, George Blake (born in 1922) was sentenced to 42 years imprisonment in 1961 (he escaped in 1966 though).
  • Dutch soccer ace Roland Koeman has feet with two different shoe sizes. His right foot, the one with the killer free kick, is (European) size 42.
  • In 1993, a survey was performed to see how many people owning Nintendos were over 18. That turned out to be 42%.
  • The picture of the ancient Queen Ynci the Short-Tempered, run into by Magrat in Terry Pratchett’s “Lords and Ladies”, is claimed to have a 42 D-cup breastplate and shoulder pads with spikes.
  • In Richard Bachman’s (i.e. Stephen King’s) “The Running Man”, the pollution count on a bad day in Boston is said to be 42.
  • In the AC/DC song “Let There Be Rock”, one line of the lyrics goes “42 decibel rockin’ band”.
  • In the film “The Poseidon Adventure”, the main shock of the seaquake to cause the wall of water that sunk the the S.S. Poseidon to sink lasted 42 seconds.
  • In 1993, David Letterman signed a contract for three years, allowing him to do “The Late Show with David Letterman” at peak hours. The contract was worth US$ 42 million.
  • In an episode of the American TV cartoon series, “Duckman” (which is absolutely fab), he owed the IRS US$ 28587.42.
  • Stephen King’s “The Stand” (the uncut edition) consists of three parts. The first of these, “Captain Trips”, is 42 chapters in size.
  • In the film “Airplane!” (a.k.a. “Flying High”), the airplane has a cruising altitude of 42,000 feet.
  • When some English chaps released the “Maggie Guide to a Classic Video Life-style” in January 1995, they claimed it was “the first of a series of 42”.
  • In the film “The Crow” starring Brandon Lee, the squad car of the most prominently cast police officer has number 42.
  • In the film “Trading Places”, starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, the character played by Jamie Lee Curtis claims at one instance to have saved “42 grand”.
  • The book “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller – a book funny in a way quite like Douglas Adams – has 42 chapters.
  • In a Monty Python sketch about Colin “Chopper” Mozart, son of the composer and Rat Annihilator, he is sent out to 42a Kartoffelstraße, where Beethoven lives.
  • Although no text survives of the legendary original Welsh Law of Hywel Dda, 42 texts written between 1230 and 1500 are extant.
  • In “Die Hard with a Vengeance”, one of the puzzles that Bruce Willis has to solve is “What is 21 out of 42”, leading to the 21st American president, Chester A. Arthur, which is also the name of a school where a bomb is placed. The temperature of the cooling equipment that the bomb is stored in is 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”, at one time the 16-year old protagonist claims to be 42 when addressing a record salesperson. A bit further in the book, the uncle of an acquaintance of his was said to have gotten polio when he was 42.
  • In an episode of “Blackadder III” (the one with the inheritance and his not allowed to get drunk but getting pissed anyway), at a certain instant he is fed beer while still sober. Captions read “42 seconds later”, and he’s brainnumbingly drunk.
  • Stanley Frost, father of the rather nasty woman that haunts Michael Douglas and his family in “Fatal Attraction”, died when he was 42.
  • Falcon FacTT File has set up a Bulletin Board System called 42BBS.
  • In Roald Dahl’s short story collection “Someone Like You” there is a story called “Claud’s Dog – Mr. Feasey”. The first time Claud’s dog goes to the races, they bet on it and get bet slip number 42.
  • Special agent Mulder, main character of the “X-Files” TV series, lives at appartment number 42.
  • In Tennessee, there was a law that proclaimed one could only teach creationism in classrooms (as opposed to Darwinism, or the theory of evolution). The law remained in force from its inception in 1925 to 1967 – 42 years.
  • Including two re-publications, I’ve had 42 articles published in the Dutch Atari magazine “Atari Nieuws” up to now.
  • The first ever sighting of the number 42 is from the Bible (Kings 2:23-24 (23)): “And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou baldhead; go up, thou bald head. 24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name ofthe LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare _forty and two_ children of them.”
  • According to the Bible, there were 42 generations between Abraham and Jesus Christ.
  • Other Biblical sightings are “The beast was given a mouth uttering proad boasts and blasphamies, and it was given authority to act for forty-two months” (Revelations 13:5), “Forty-two months was how long the profanation of the holy city was to last” (Revelations 11:2), “Twelve hundred and sixty days (forty-two months) was the length of the prophetic mission of the two witnesses” (Revelations 11:3), “Twelve hundred and sixty days (forty-two months), is the length of the retreat to the desert the woman goes on to escape the Serpent.” (Revelations 12:6-14), “But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.” (Revelations 11:2).
  • The angle at which light reflects off of water to create a rainbow is 42 degrees.
  • A 42 mile per hour wind brought down the original Tacoma bridge in the state of Washingtion in the 1930s.
  • 42 is the natural vibration frequency of human DNA.
  • 42 is the natural vibration frequency of white mouse DNA (this sheds an interesting light on white mice being more intelligent than man).
  • The chamber in the Cheops pyramid is exactly 42 metres over the ground.
  • The total number of dots on a pair of dice is 42.
  • The integer part of the square root of proton mass divided by electron mass gives 42.
  • 42 was the name of the painter in episode 2 or 3 of the “Prisoner” series.
  • An episode of “X-Files” makes reference to a ship being lost for 42 hours.
  • An episode of “Married with Children” had a football game where the score was 42 to 0, with Al’s team losing.
  • In the film “Teen Wolf”, Michael J. Fox has the number 42 on his jersey.
  • The song “Minimum Wage” by They Might Be Giants is 42 seconds long.
  • In the film “Ghost”, Patrick Swayze learns to move things (as a ghost) at subway platform 42.
  • In the book “James and the Giant Peach”, the centipede has 42 legs.
  • In Kansas’s (the band) song “Closet Chronicles” (from the “Point of Know Return” album) they have the following line, “Gazing out the window, from the FORTY-SECOND floor…”
  • LucasArts’s classic “Zak McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders” has the number “42” plastered all over.
  • In Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” (album version), immediately after the “Every Sperm is Sacred” song, the narrator says “Meanwhile, at number 42”, whereupon we are taken to the Protestant family sketch.
  • A current (English) advert for Guiness stout goes: “It’s hard to put a value to most things. This, however, is 42.”
  • The elevator in the film “Speed” starts at level 42.
  • There is a french magazine about cars, relationships and home improvement etc. The title of this magazine is “Le 42”.
  • There is a bar/night club in Lyon, France called “The 42”.
  • In the “Pelican Brief”, Darby Shaw, (Julia Roberts) lives at 42 Beau Luc Lane, New Orleans. You can see this briefly on the cover of the brief once during the film.
  • In A.A. Milne’s (author of “Winnie-the-Pooh”) collection of poetry, “Now_We_are_Six”, in the poem “The Morning Walk”, it says:

“When Anne and I go out a walk,
We hold each other’s hand and talk,
Of all the things we mean to do
when Anne and I are forty-two.”

  • In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet sleeps for 42 hours.
  • Dr. Seuss wrote 42 Children’s Books.
  • In the “Babylon 5” episode “AND NOW FOR A WORD”, ISN reporter Cynthia Torqueman (Kim Zimmer) said: “Aliens make up roughly 42 percent of Babylon 5’s population.”
  • In the film “Aliens” (with Sigourney Weaver), when Ripley is being shown how to use the machine gun, there are 42 rounds left in the clip. You can see ’42’ on the read-out on the side.
  • On the television show “Martin”, his apartment door is 42.
  • Marsha Clark, the prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson Trial, was 42 years old
  • The cop that found the body of Nicole Brown-Simpson had been a police officer for 4 years 2 months.
  • On day 142 of the O.J. Simpson trial, defense attorney Johnny Cochran asked screenwriter Laura Hart McKinney how often the “N”-word was said in the conversation she overheard. Her answer was: “Approximately 42 times.”
  • 42 is the number in the header file of a TIFF file that identifies the file.
  • Apple filed 42 patents on technology developed for its Color LaserWriter 12/600 PS.
  • The most successful electron tube for audio applications in the 1930’s was a “type 42” six-pin amplifier.
  • The toolbar button with ID 42 in Microsoft Excel has a toolface saying 42.
  • 42 percent of all American women rely on some type of sterilization for birth control (Newsweek, March 13, 1995, p.60).
  • There is very often a 42 on the zipper of your Levis.
  • ZOCOR, a new cholesterol drug, was resposible for saving the life of 42% of the people who took it in a 5 year study.
  • 42 people died at Chernobyl.
  • Found in the German postcode-register: 06420 Lebendorf (Leben = life), 06542 Allstedt (All = universe) and 88422 Alleshausen (Alles = everything). Now what do these postcodes have in common? These 3 cities are located on a straight line and do not form a triangle as you would expect!
  • Napoleon graduated 42nd in his class at Brienne military school.
  • The first book printed on the Gutenburg (movable type) press was a bible with 42 lines on each page.
  • Aloutte, Canada’s first artificial space satellite, was 42 inches in diameter.
  • Cleopatra became Marc Anthony’s mistress in 42 BC.
  • There are 42 rooms in the White House, including bathrooms excluding closets.
  • In the Red Dwarf novel “Last Human”, Arnold J. Rimmer’s son, McGruder, is introduced to his father at the tender age of 42.
  • The bullet sign used to head off all these items is, you guessed it right, ASCII CHR$(42). This is also known as a “wild card”, which stands for anything (including life, the universe and everything).
  • The first version of this document (in ST NEWS Volume 5 Issue 1) was exactly 42 Kb (43008 bytes) long; the second version (in ST NEWS Volume 9 Issue 1) was a little longer; Volume 11 Issue 1+2 saw a reprise of that same article).
  • There is a band called Level 42. Perhaps more coincidentally, the band chose the week in which Douglas Adams was to become 42 to release their first post-split album. It is also said that they either named themselves after The Answer or after the highest car park in the world, which had 42 levels (in Hong Kong, apparently).
  • The scroller in the Exceptions’ “BIG Demo”, probably the first Atari ST megademo, was 42 Kb long (although this was life imitating art, not the other way around).
  • In 1994 a band called Rot released a CD called “Cruel Face of Live” that contained 42 songs.
  • There are 42 territories in the game of “Risk”.
  • In Terminator – Dark Fate, they take the big bomber towards Bridge 42.
  • In The Chalkman, the book is divided into two segments. In the second, protagonist Eddie is 42 years old.
  • Jonathan Price’s character in “Brazil” lives on Level 42.
  • “Jet Set Willy” has 42 levels.
  • In Frank Herbert’s “Hellstrom’s Hive”, the hydroponics farm is on level 42.
  • During a November 2019 manouvre by the German navy in the Baltic Sea, they blew up 42 old sea mines from World War I (and, allegedly, accidentally killed 18 protected porpoises of a protected subspecies).
  • There is a game called “Texas 42 Dominos”, also just called “42”.
  • “The Year is ’42” is a WWII novel by Nella Bielski, published in 2005.
  • The year 2013 saw the release of a Jackie Robinson biopic called “42” – he was the first successful black baseball player.
  • “Tower 42” is a skyscraper in London, England.
  • “Channel 42” is the name of an electronic dance track by Deadmau5 and Wolfgang Gartner.
  • In the TV series “Supernatural”, the episode “Inside Man” features a door labelled “42” that leads to the gate of heaven.
  • “The 42” is a residential skyscraper in Kolkata, India, which became the highest building in India on April 2019.
  • “42” is the title of a 2007 episode of “Dr. Who” (where he had exactly 42 minutes to rescue his crew).
  • “42” is the title of the final (2001) episode of “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command”.
  • The debut album by Ukrainian musical group Cthulhu Rise is called “42”.
  • “42” is the title of a song on Coldplay’s 2008 album “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends”, later also featured on their 2009 live album “LeftRightLeftRightLeft”.
  • 42 is a pronic number (a number formed by the multiplication of two successive integers, in this case 6 x 7).
  • In binary, 42 is the nicely regular 101010.
  • 42 is one of only three small primary pseudoperfect numbers below 1000 (as are 2 and 6).
  • 42 is a Hardshad (or Niven) number (an integer divisible by the sum of its digits).
  • The perfect score in the International Mathematical Olympiad is 42 out of 42.
  • A male Koala will thrust exactly 42 times before he ejaculates.
  • In 2017, 42 people together owned as much as the rest of humanity.
  • There is a software company called “42 BV” in Zoetermeer, the Netherlands (they produce software for, among others clients, banks, the Dutch tax department, and insurance companies).
  • When the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” premiered (in 2005) it raked in BP 4,2 million at the box office.
  • In “Finding Nemo”, Dory and Marlin are on a mission to 42 Wallaby Street in Sydney to find, obviously, Nemo.
  • An important number sequence in the TV series “Lost” is “4 8 15 16 23 42”.
  • Donated blood lasts 42 days.
  • According to the bible, there are 42 generations between King David and Jesus.
  • In the film “The Square”, we see an art exhibit that people can enter via “I Mistrust People” or “I Trust People” entry points. The Trust counter is at 3, the Mistrust one at 42.
  • There are 42 years between the release of the first Star Wars film (“Episode IV – A New Hope”) in 1977 and “Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” in 2019.
  • In the Star Wars universe, the Acky Acky Festival takes place every 42 years.
  • If you order train tickets using NS International in the Netherlands, you need to round off your order within 42 minutes.
  • In the documentary “Murder Music” (a history of black metal), Jens Ryland (organiser of the Inferno Festivals) claims 42 wooden stave churches burned down during the early 1990s arson attacks (though this number is actually more like 50 to 60).
  • The Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park in Thailand consists of 42 islands.
  • During the much-protested Black Mass at the Oklahoma Civic Center, organised by the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu Satanic church in September 2014, there were (a mere) 42 ticket-holding attendants.
  • Gard Eggesbo Abrahamsen, a.k.a. Drag the Insanely Witty One of old, erstwhile ST NEWS co-conspirator, Nutty Norwegian and all-round friend, died on 13 August 2016 at the much too young age of 42.
  • Two fishermen went missing after leaving the Marshall Islands on April 2nd 2020. They had landfall on Namoluk, exactly 42 days later, more dead than alive.
  • Theodore Roosevelt became president of the United States when he was 42, in 1901.
  • When henry VIII died he had 42 palaces.
  • A barrel of oil is 42 gallons.
  • Legally, in the United States blood can be kept for transfusion for forty-two days.
  • When Thomas Jefferson’s father died (in 1757) he left him a library of 42 books.
  • In the live-action version of “Jungle Book”, the individual frame requiring most rendering took, in fact, 42 hours.
  • In “The Chalk Man” by C.J. Tudor, the protagonist (Ed) is 42 years old.
  • In 2016, 42% of American voters voted early.
  • 42 is the smallest number k that is equal to the sum of the nonprime proper divisors of k, i.e., 42 = 1 + 6 + 14 + 21.
  • In most Pixar movies, the Walt Disney and Pixar company logos together take up 42 seconds.
  • In “The Bridge” Season 3, L369G42 is an important code number.
  • In “The Sandhamn Murders” season 3 episode 3 there were planned to be 42 guests on Nora and Jonas intended’ wedding.
  • The assembly cut of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” movie was 2 and a half hours long. The theatrical cut is 42 minutes shorter.
  • The recommended time between the two injections of the anti-Covid-19 BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is 35 to 42 days.
  • In an early season 1 episode of the TV series “Arne Dahl”, the main bad guy is Jüri Mikojan, who is 42 years old.
  • There was a Commodore Amiga scene coder called Magician 42.
  • Jack Nicholson was 42 years old when he played in “The Shining”.
  • In the 1985 version of the film “Teen Wolf”, Michael J. Fox wears a jersey numbered 42 for the Beavers basketball team.
  • Light refracts through a water surface by 42 degrees to create a rainbow.
  • Light requires 10−42 seconds to cross the diameter of a proton.
  • 42 is the number of laws in cricket.
  • The Allen Telescope Array, a radio telescope used by SETI, has 42 dishes.
  • There is a British TV show called The Kumars at No. 42.
  • The Hitchhiker knitting pattern, designed by Martina Behm, is a scarf with 42 teeth.
  • The number 47 appears often throughout the Star Trek franchise. When producer Rick Berman was asked about the unusual frequency of the number, he stated, “47 is 42, corrected for inflation.”
  • The games developer Mens Sana Interactive released a computer game called “The Answer is 42” on Steam in December 2019. The game consists of 100 puzzles, each of which is a grid of numbers that must be connected to sum 42.
  • The 42nd episode of ‘The Spawn Chunks’ (a Minecraft podcast) is titled ‘Life, The Universe and Pillaging’.
  • In “The Hunting of the Snark”, Lewis Caroll wrote about the baker:

“He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
They were all left behind on the beach.”

  • 42 is the sum of the dots on a pair of dice.
  • 6×9 is said to be 42 in the “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” itself (in part 2, “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”), however that is only really the case in BASE13 calculations.
  • As determined by the Babylonians, in 79 years Mars orbits the Sun almost exactly 42 times.
  • The hypothetical efficiency of converting mass to energy, as per E=mc², by having a given mass orbit a rotating black hole is 42%, the highest efficiency yet known to modern physics.
  • In the military IRIG 106 Chapter 10 data recording standard, the hex value 0x464F52545974776F (ASCII “FORTYtwo”) is used as a magic number to identify directory blocks.
  • In TIFF (Tagged Image File Format), the second 16-bit word of every file is 42, “an arbitrary but carefully chosen number that further identifies the file as a TIFF file”.
  • There are 42 body parts of Osiris: In some traditions of the Osiris myth, Seth slays Osiris and distributes his 42 body parts all over Egypt. (In others, the number is fourteen and sixteen).
  • Clement of Alexandria stated that the Egyptian temple library is divided into 42 “absolutely necessary” books that formed the stock of a core library.
  • In Egyptian mythology, there are 42 questions asked of persons making their journey through Death.
  • There are 42 Stations of the Exodus which are the locations visited by the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt.
  • 42 is the number with which God creates the Universe in Kabbalistic traditionThere are 42 generations (names) in the Gospel of Matthew’s version of the Genealogy of Jesus.
  • In Revelations, it is prophesied that for 42 months the Beast will hold dominion over the Earth.
  • The Gutenberg Bible is also known as the “42-line Bible”, as the book contained 42 lines per page.
  • In Japanese culture, the number 42 is considered unlucky because the numerals when pronounced separately—shi ni (four two)—sound like the word “dying”.
  • The Sutra of Forty-two Sections is a Buddhist scripture.
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has 42 illustrations.
  • There is an American rapper called 42 Dugg.
  • In the Stargate Atlantis season 4 episode “Quarantine”, Colonel Sheppard states that Dr. McKay’s password ends in 42 because “It’s the ultimate answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything.”
  • In Pacific Rim, a 2013 American science-fiction monster film, when Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket arrives at the Hong Kong Shatterdome, the hangar door number is 42.
  • 42 Entertainment is the company responsible for several alternate reality games, including I Love Bees, Year Zero, and Why So Serious.
  • Tokyo 42 is a videogame released in 2017.
  • 42 (dominoes) is a trick-taking game played with dominoes, rather than cards, originated and predominantly found in Texas.

If you have not yet had enough of The Number, feel free to check out “A Math Fan Guide to the Number 42” by Scientific American. And a special thank you to ertswhile “ST NEWS” writer and co-editor Stefan Posthuma for telling me about “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in the first place.

Towel Day

Today is Towel Day, a day to commemorate the life and works of the late great Douglas Adams (1952-2001). On this day, fans are supposed to openly carry a towel with them all day, on account of what “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” says about the importance of towels:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)

I read the initial three volumes of these books in 1988, and to say they shaped my life is barely hyperbolic. Since then I believe I have read all Douglas Adams’ books, even including his non-fiction title “Last Chance to See”. Now I cannot let an everyday occurrence of the number 42 go by unheeded. The Atari ST scene gathering “ST NEWS International Christmas Coding Convention” had a 10th and 25th anniversary, and will next convene on its 42nd anniversary. I use the words “skoonsproot” and “affpuddle” in active conversation (though they are from his “The Meaning of Liff”). I regularly re-read the Hitchhiker’s series as well as the Dirk Gently books. And yesterday I finished binge-watching the second season of BBC America’s rather entertaining “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” (which are very very very loosely, in fact hardly, based on the books) with my wife. I set up the most insulting website ever at www.wowbagger.com. When I attempted to write funny stuff, I wore Adams’ influences on my sleeve (well, and a bit of Pterry). Douglas has really touched my life in a way otherwise only achieved by Tolkien and Orwell.

So here’s to the life and legacy of Douglas Adams. Have a great Towel Day!