Sunday, January 8, 2012

42: The Question at Last

The Question:

What is the Ultimate Question of Life The Universe and Everything?

The Background:

In his wildly successful "Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy" books, British author Douglas Adams has a race of "hyper-intellegent, pan dimensional beings" design a computer to find the answer to "The Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything."

After thinking things over for several million years the computer, Deep Thought, comes back with the answer:  42.  Everyone is very disappointed by this answer naturally.  Deep Thought explains that the problem is that no one has ever really understood the question.  Much of the rest of the books is concerned with finding the question to the ultimate answer.

You can see the whole exchange here from the 2005 movie "Hitchiker's Guide to The Galaxy."

In the books, and apparently in his life, Douglas Adams, who died in 2001, never gave a question to go with the movie.  The closest he came was when Benji the mouse, a character in the books suggested that maybe 42 was the answer to the question, "How Many Roads Must a Man Walk Down?"  which is from a Bob Dylan song made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

So What's the Answer:

Since Douglas never answered the question himself we can only speculate.  The only very compelling answer we've ever heard came from Dan Smith of Leavenworth, Kansas, USA.   His question to the ultimate answer is, "What is the sum total of paradise?"

His logic goes like this; if you add up all the dots on one six sided die (you know, dice like for playing board games) you will find that there are 21 dots (1+2+3+4+5+6=21) so the sum of a "pair of dice" would be 21+21=42.  42!  The question to ultimate answers is:  What is The sum of paradise!  Dan Smith.  There you go.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

(1) mid-age is 42 if human lifespan is 84 (i.e. furthest time from birth and death)

(2) twice 21, or the total minimum age two people need to be to ask permission to get married (traditionally). Or second 21st birthday if you restart the clock at 21.

(3) the number of fingers and toes and heads on two people

(4) the number of zeroes to the power of 10 which gives the ratio (10^42) of electromagnetic to gravitation force, as stated by Feynman in his 1964 Lectures, "The Character of Physical Law" (Feynman also suggests that the ratio of the radius of the universe to the classical radius of a proton is 10^42.)