42 (answer)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Roman XLII
dual 10 1010
Octal 52
Duodecimal 36
Hexadecimal 2A
Morse code · · · · - · · - - - 
Mathematical properties
sign positive
parity straight
Divider 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 14, 21, 42

Answer 42 is a quote from the novel and radio play series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by the English author Douglas Adams .

In the novel, is "42" by a supercomputer a few million given years of computing time answer to the question "after life, the Universe and Everything" ( English "life, the universe and everything" ), with which the protagonists ultimately nothing because the question was too vague.


The novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy quickly became a classic in science fiction literature. Like many of Adam's works, it is characterized by the fact that it parodies various aspects of life, distorting them into the grotesque and absurd, or viewing them from an unusual angle. For the most part he holds up a mirror to the superficially fantastic and motley stories of humanity with their supposedly meaningful motifs and supposedly secure views. This is particularly pointed in a motif that directly caricatures people's constant search for the meaning of being .

In the novel, a computer called Deep Thought is specially built by an extraterrestrial culture to compute the answer to the question of all questions, namely "about life, the universe and everything else". It is so powerful that it meditates on the vectors of all the particles of the Big Bang to pass the time. Nevertheless, it takes 7.5 million years of computing time to determine this answer, and then announces that it is “forty-two” and that it is absolutely correct. He explains that it is still unsatisfactory by the fact that the question was circumscribed, but never formulated as a specific question ( “I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is. ” ). Since he does not see himself in a position to determine the question either, he suggests building an even larger computer himself, so complex that organic life forms part of his working matrix. This computer is the planet earth , which cannot complete the task given to it, because it turns out that it is in the way of a planned hyperspace bypass and is therefore blown up by a cosmic construction fleet five minutes before the program ends.


There are many references to supposed interpretations of the number in the book. In the second part ( The Restaurant at the End of the Universe ), the protagonist Arthur Dent, when stranded on prehistoric earth, succeeds in setting the question in the company of some early humans with the help of a scrabble game he carved out of which he randomly draws letters Allusion to a striking picture of the theory of evolution , in which the result of evolution is compared with the result that comes out when an infinite number of monkeys write on a typewriter for an infinite amount of time ( Infinite Monkey Theorem ). Paradoxically, Scrabble comes up with a meaningful sentence which is "How much is nine multiplied by six". The apparent discrepancy between the answer and this question is explained by the fact that on prehistoric earth, the burgeoning human race, who knew the correct question, was displaced by another civilization.

In the third book it is indicated that knowing the answer and the related question mutually exclusive and never both be known in the same universe at the same time can .

The supposed secret of the number runs like a red thread through the subsequent volumes of the novel series and gave rise to diverse speculations about its origin. In Internet culture in particular , “42” quickly became a household word and its use was very popular. As in the book, the number was repeatedly ascribed new meanings and myths, as the book does not offer a definitive solution:

  • The calculation “nine multiplied by six” would result in a 13- digit system of 42 (numbers without an index are noted in the decimal system):
  • "42" forms a strikingly regular pattern in binary notation (numbers without an index are noted in the decimal system):

The author Douglas Adams brushed aside such speculations in a 1993 Usenet article. When asked why the answer was "42", he wrote:

“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. "

"The answer ist quite easy. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, rather small number, and I took this one. Binary representations, base 13, Tibetan monks, this is total nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared out into the garden and thought: '42 fits'. I typed it. That's all."


Pirate Party election poster
  • In software development , the number 42 - similar to 0815 and 4711  - is often used by programmers as a magic number , i.e. as a fixed numerical value that everyone can see that it has no deeper meaning, but is just an example of any value.
  • Even Google answers this question fictitious in origin correctly. If you enter the answer to life, the universe and everything in the search field , the result of the Google calculator is the answer to life, the universe and everything = 42 . The same applies to the WolframAlpha internet service .
  • The British music group Level 42 also referred to the number mentioned in the novel when naming it.
  • The name of the IT School 42 is a tribute to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".
  • The first independent version of the Linux distribution from SUSE Linux GmbH developed on the basis of Jurix was published in May 1996 under the name SuSE Linux with version number 4.2. The version number came up after a long discussion: since the version number 1.1 was rejected, the number was rather based on the number 42, the answer to the "question of all questions" from Douglas Adams' novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy .
  • In the election campaign for the local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2014, the pirates posted "42" without any further content.
  • The Wikidata data object Douglas Adams received the item identifier “Q42”.
  • The Math42 app alludes to the novel with its name (“answer to the solution of all math problems”).
  • Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa, answers the question "What is the meaning of life?" the answer "42, but don't forget the towel" back.
  • The computer games Gothic and Gothic 2 use the 42 to deactivate a “test mode”: If you enter “42” in the character menu, the text “What was the question?” Appears at the top left of the screen.


For Lewis Carroll , one of the most popular writers in English literature, the number 42 had "some sort of special meaning," says Martin Gardner , author of the highly commented editions of Alice in Wonderland (1865) and The Hunting of the Snark ( 1876): Carroll used the number 42 as a seemingly random choice in Alice , in Phantasmagoria and in Snark , there in two different contexts. Like Carroll in the Snark , Douglas Adams also divided the radio version of his The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into the ambiguous term "Fits" (classic "sections", in modern English rather "fits").

Since February 11th is the 42nd day of the year, it has been traded as a possible Memorial Day for Douglas Adams. Ultimately, however, Towel Day was set for May 25th.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Douglas Adams quoted in: Neil Gaiman, David K. Dickson, MJ Simpson: Don't Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Third Edition ed.). Titan Books, 2003, ISBN 1-84023-742-2 , pp. 218-219.
  2. Douglas Adams: Why 42? In: alt.fan.douglas-adams (former Usenet group). Google Groups , November 3, 1993, accessed December 25, 2015 .
  3. Google search result (→  Fictitious lexicon article )
  4. Wolfram | Alpha search result with D. Adams as the source
  5. trendblog.euronics.de: Man-machine misunderstanding: Alexa, what is the meaning of life?
  6. ^ Martin Gardner: The Annotated Hunting of the Snark . 2006, ISBN 0-393-06242-2 , p. 37, note 34
  7. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. BBC , 2005, accessed December 25, 2015 .
  8. fit, n. 1 A part or section of a poem or song. Oxford English Dictionary , 2017, accessed June 2, 2017 .
  9. Merriam-Webster , under noun (2), accessed March 26, 2020