42 Forty-TwoWe all know that the number 42 is made famous in the novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. 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.

But just how famous is this oddly even little number? I thought I would investigate.

Perhaps Adams was influenced by reading Lewis Carroll?

Examples of Carroll’s use of 42:

# Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has 42 illustrations.

# Rule Forty-two in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (“All persons more than a mile high to leave the court”.)

# Rule 42 of the Code in the preface to The Hunting of the Snark (“No one shall speak to the Man at the Helm.”)

# In “fit the first” of The Hunting of the Snark the Baker had “forty-two boxes, all carefully packed, With his name painted clearly on each”.

# Alice’s recital of her “four times table” while falling down the rabbit hole makes sense if the first calculation is made in base 18, the second in base 21, and so on, increasing the base by three each time. Continuing on this pattern 4 × 12 would equal 19 in base 39, but 4 × 13 calculated in base 42, rather than providing the expected 20 would yield 1A. Hence, as Alice cries, “I shall never get to twenty at that rate!”

# The Red Queen announces her age as “one hundred and one, five years and a day”, which – if the best possible date is assumed for the action of Through the Looking-Glass – gives a total of 37,044 days. With the further (textually unjustified) assumption that both Queens were born on the same day their combined age becomes 74,088 days, which is 42 x 42 x 42. Some commentators have asserted that this is deliberate on Carroll’s part.

Then again, perhaps the number 42, is just so common it just pops up everywhere.

# In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Friar Lawrence gives Juliet a potion that allows for her to be in a death-like coma for “two and forty hours.”

# Fox Mulder, one of the main characters in The X-Files lived in Apartment 42 at 2630 Hegal Place, Alexandria, Virginia.

# The Kumars at No. 42 television series.

# 42 is an episode of Doctor Who, set in real time lasting approximately 42 minutes.

# In the Doctor Who episode Voyage of the Damned, the Tenth Doctor attempts to control a rogue host robot by randomly shouting numbers, including of course, 42.

# 42 is the name of Buzz Lightyear’s space ship from Pixar’s animated science fiction series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.

# In Monty Python’s film And Now for Something Completely Different, the famous “How Not to be Seen” sketch is presented as “H.M. Government Public Service film No. 42”.

# In A Clockwork Orange Alex browses through records in a record store and we see a record of the, at this time fictional, band Level 42.

# In an episode of “Stargate Atlantis” it is revealed that Rodney Mckay’s password is made up of the birth years of several notable minds throughout history, and ends with the number 42. The character John Sheppard reveals that the number is the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything, to the confusion of his alien companion.

# In an episode of “Stargate Atlantis,” Season 4 – Doppelganger; Dr. McKay asks Lt. Col. Sheppard “Look, do you have any idea how many Gate addresses there are in the Ancient database that have no accompanying description?” to which Sheppard answers “forty two”.

# There are 42 US gallons in a barrel of oil.

# There are 42 land locked countries in the world.

# The number of laws of cricket.

And lastly and of enormous significance is that my very own address is ……. Drum roll please ….. 42!

Source: Selected Quotes Courtesy of Wikipedia


12 thoughts on “Forty-Two

  • 27/02/2011 at 6:00 pm

    That's amazing. I really enjoyed reading this post. I couldn't resist googling 42 and apparently a lady died while watching her TV for 42 years before her body was found. It was an old black and white so I'm guessing it wasn't a 42" screen.

  • 27/02/2011 at 6:16 pm

    Ah Rosalind! Perhaps the old TV ran on 42 amp valves? :)

  • 27/02/2011 at 8:49 pm

    Love stuff like this. H2G2 was one of my favourite programmes too.

    42="The number of judges required to sit by the body of the Egyptian dead pending the examination and without which the deceased had no portion in Amenti"
    from here

  • 28/02/2011 at 12:00 am

    At the end of the original BBC TV series (I've never actually read the books, yeah yeah I know, I'm a heathen) we find out what the eternal question really is, the question that 42 is the answer to… "6 x 9 = ?".

    Now, if you ask me, that goes a long way to explaining why the world is so fucked up. :-)

  • 28/02/2011 at 12:10 am

    Now Steve, I can understand that 6 x 9 = ? But ….. you haven't read DA. Oh yes, Heathen! Lol

  • 28/02/2011 at 7:12 pm

    Steve, I can forgive you only having seen the programme. That at least is canon Hitchhiker's (or as canon as it ever gets.) It's the heathens that claim to know about it because they've watched the film that drive me up the wall!

  • 04/03/2011 at 5:08 am

    OMG! I was once age 42 for a *whole* year. Coincidence? lol

  • 04/03/2011 at 9:06 am

    ha Anon! I made it last for nearly 10 years. But then turning 52 was a real bummer :(

  • 12/03/2011 at 1:19 am

    Derek, you have TOO much time on your hands, man! :D

    Have you ever considered a career as a conspiracy theorist? :D Or the next Dan Brown? :D

  • 18/07/2011 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks, Derek, for steering me to the right link. Can’t pass up another discussion of DA’s possible source for 42!

    It shows up in so many movies, etc., these days; it’s nice to know DA lives on. He left us too soon.

    • 18/07/2011 at 8:43 pm

      I agree Cyndi. It was most impolite of DA to disappear without at least saying’So long and thanks for the fish.’ :) I miss him.

      • 24/07/2011 at 6:33 pm

        I’m quite sure he would at least “apologize for the inconvenience” ;-)

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