Douglas Adams said it was the answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. He meant it as a joke, but a new book shows how the number 42 has played a significant role in history.
When Douglas Adams wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he added a central joke which has become more famous over the years than the novel itself: “The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.” Geeks have since wasted years and massive effort trying to ascribe some deep, symbolic significance to the number and its occurrences.
Now, in an attempt to cash in on their obsession, a new book published this week, 42: Douglas Adams’ Amazingly Accurate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, looks at real-life occurrences of the number 42. The book is timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Adams’s death this spring.
Scores of adolescents have posited theories about significance of the number. The actor Stephen Fry claimed to know the true answer, but won’t tell, saying he’ll take it to his grave. The author himself rather undermined the myriad analyses when he dismissed them all with the simple answer that the choice of the number was a joke.