April 15, 2006

Why "42" is The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything

When I'm asked for a simple, numeric answer to a complex question, I like to respond "42".

Here's why:

According to the Hitchhiker's Guide, researchers from a pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent race of beings, construct Deep Thought, the second greatest computer of all time and space, to calculate the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. After seven and a half million years of pondering the question, Deep Thought provides the answer: "forty-two."
"Forty-two!" yelled Loonquawl. "Is that all you've got to show for seven and a half million years' work?"
"I checked it very thoroughly," said the computer, "and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is."
Even Google agrees. Try this.

As to why it's 42, rather than 7 or 1,080,213 or such, Douglas Adams writes this:
The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do' I typed it out. End of story. 
Douglas Adams