The Answer Is 42

As Douglas Adams said, 42 is “…a number not just divisible by two but also six and seven. In fact it’s the sort of number that you could without any fear introduce to your parents.”  This is illustrated in Douglas Adams’ game from *Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy*.  The solution to the puzzle is 42.  In base 13, 6 X 9 = 42.  In the puzzle, the question is the unknown.  Interestingly, hardly anyone paid any attention to that.  Adams believes that is quite significant.

This is stealth wisdom.

As is “DON’T PANIC”.  Arthur C. Clarke said that Adams’ use of “DON’T PANIC” was probably the best advice ever given to mankind.  If you have never followed Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series, DON’T PANIC because there are other ways to look at 42.

Think of a time when you were minding your own business, perhaps reading a book or concentrating on a task when suddenly somebody snuck up behind you and yelled, “BOO”.  Your mind went blank for a moment before you became startled.  That was the moment of clarity before you scolded the person who yelled “BOO”.

This is what happens when a Zen Buddhist is given a Koan.  A Koan is a seemingly nonsensical riddle given out by the Zen priest to a student to solve.  The most famous Koan is, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”  The mind cannot conceptualize of anything other than two hands clapping.  One hand clapping seems absurd.  The riddle and the attempts to solve it are the mental equivalents of the yelling of “BOO!”.

Thus, “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is calculated by an enormous supercomputer over a period of 7.5 million years to be 42”, is a literary Koan.

42 is amazingly significant in many different fields.  For Instance, Jackie Robinson of the old Brooklyn Dodgers wore jersey number 42.

How about these?  There are 42 U.S. gallons in a barrel of oil.  Bill clinton was the 42nd U.S. President.  42nd Street in New York City is a major route. There’s even a song named “42nd Street”.  There’s the pop music band “Level 42”.  Lewis Carroll’s novel *Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland* has 42 illustrations in its original printings.

In Christianity, among the references to 42, are the number of generations in Matthew’s version of Jesus’ genealogy.  God sent bears to hurt and molest 42 of the boys who mocked Elisha for his baldness.

In Judaism, the unpronounceable name of the Tetragrammaton has the 12 lettered name and the 42 lettered name of the Talmud.

You can find many examples great and trivial of 42’s importance.   But I prefer to just think of 42 as the answer to the ultimate question of life.


The Blue Jay of Happiness says 42 is the old country telephone code of Czechoslovakia.  The fact that Czechoslovakia is defunct is profound.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, cultural highlights, History, Meanderings, sports. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.