Phrases from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a comic science fiction series created by Douglas Adams that has become popular among fans of the genre(s) as well as members of the scientific community. Certain phrases from it are widely recognised and often used in reference to, but outside the context of, the source material. Many writers on popular science, such as Fred Alan Wolf, Paul Davies, Max Miller and Michio Kaku, have used quotations from Adams' work in their books to illustrate facts about cosmology or philosophy.
Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything (42)
The number 42
Douglas Adams was asked many times why he chose the number 42. Many theories were proposed, but he rejected them all. On November 3, 1993, he gave an answer on alt.fan.douglas-adams:
|“||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.||”|
Adams described his choice as 'a completely ordinary number, 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'.
While 42 was a number with no hidden meaning, Adams explained in more detail in an interview with Iain Johnstone of BBC Radio 4 (recorded in 1998 though never broadcast) to celebrate the first radio broadcast's 20th anniversary. Having decided it should be a number, he tried to think what an "ordinary number" should be. He ruled out non-integers, then he remembered having worked as a "prop-borrower" for John Cleese on his Video Arts training videos. Cleese needed a funny number for the punchline to a sketch involving a bank teller (himself) and a customer (Tim Brooke-Taylor). Adams believed that the number that Cleese came up with was 42 and he decided to use it.
Adams also had written a sketch for The Burkiss Way called "42 Logical Positivism Avenue", broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 12 January 1977 – 14 months before the Hitchhiker's Guide first broadcast "42" in fit the fourth, 29 March 1978.
On the Internet
The number 42 and the phrase, "Life, the universe, and everything" have attained cult status on the Internet. "Life, the Universe, and Everything" is a common name for the off-topic section of an Internet forum and the phrase is invoked in similar ways to mean "anything at all". Many chatbots, when asked about the meaning of life, will answer "42". Several online calculators are also programmed with the Question. If you type the answer to life the universe and everything into Google (without quotes or capitalising the small words), the Google Calculator will give you 42, as will Wolfram's Computational Knowledge Engine. Similarly, if you type the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything into DuckDuckGo, the 0-click box will read "42". In the online community Second Life, there is a section on a sim called "42nd Life." It is devoted to this concept in the book series, and several attempts at recreating Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, were made. In Facebook Chat there is an emoticon for 42 created by typing :42: .
Shortly after Adams died in 2001, the Darwin Awards Forums announced that, in his honour, the number of posts required for a member to get out of "newbie" status would henceforth be decreased from 50 to 42.
In the OpenOffice.org software, if you type into any cell of a spreadsheet =ANTWORT("Das Leben, das Universum und der ganze Rest"), which means the answer to life, the universe and everything, the result is 42.
ISO/IEC 14519-2001/ IEEE Std 1003.5-1999, IEEE Standard for Information Technology - POSIX(R) Ada Language Interfaces - Part 1: Binding for System Application Program Interface (API) , uses the number '42' as the required return value from a process that terminates due to an unhandled exception. The Rationale says "the choice of the value 42 is arbitrary" and cites the Adams book as the source of the value.
In the Stargate Atlantis Season 4 episode "Quarantine", 42 are the last two digits in Rodney McKay's password, 16431879196842 (the first being the years Newton, Einstein and Rodney were born). After John Sheppard explains to Teyla the meaning of the previous twelve digits, she asks him what 42 is. Then, John says, "It's the ultimate answer to the great question of life, the universe, and everything," at which point Teyla looks confused. In the Stargate Universe episode "Human", Dr. Nicholas Rush is having a lucid dream in which he writes the number 46 on a whiteboard. In the dream, Dr. Daniel Jackson tells him, "Well, it's not the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. That's 42. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
The band Level 42 chose its name in reference to the book.
In the NCIS episode "Escaped", an address used is '4242 Adams Blvd'.
During an interview, Star Trek producer Rick Berman, when asked about the recurrence of the number 47 in multiple Star Trek episodes, stated that "47 is 42, corrected for inflation" in reference to Hitchiker's.
Ken Jennings, defeated along with Brad Rutter in a Jeopardy match against IBM's Watson, writes that Watson's avatar which appeared on-screen for those games showed 42 "threads of thought," and that the number was chosen in reference to this meme.
In the Bollywood movie 3 Idiots, in the song 'Aal izz well', part of the lyrics, "Confusion hi confusion hai. Solution kuchh pata nahin. Solution jo mila to saala. Question kya tha pata nahin" (literally translated to: There is only confusion. We do not know the solution. When the solution was found, we did not know what the question was), was intended by lyricist as a reference to the Ultimate Question.
Knowing where one's towel is
Somebody who can stay in control of virtually any situation is somebody who is said to know where his or her towel is. The logic behind this statement is presented in chapter 3 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy thus:
... a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
The only entry about Earth in the Guide used to be "Harmless", but Ford Prefect managed to change it a little before getting stuck on Earth. "Mostly Harmless" provoked a very upset reaction from Arthur when heard. (Those two words are not what Ford submitted as a result of his research — merely all that was left after his editors were done with it.) It is the title of the fifth book in the Hitchhiker series. Its popularity is such that it has become the definition of Earth in many standard works of sci-fi reference, like The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Additionally, "Harmless" and "Mostly Harmless" both feature as ranks in the computer game Elite. Also, in World of Warcraft, there is a rifle that fires (mostly) harmless pellets. In the MMORPG RuneScape, there is an island called Mos Le Harmless (Mostly Harmless). Low-scoring players in the multiplayer version of the game Perfect Dark and GoldenEye 007 are awarded with the designation "mostly harmless". In the 2008 edition of the board game Cosmic Encounter, the Human race is given the attribute "Mostly Harmless."
Not entirely unlike
In the novel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Arthur Dent tries to get a Nutrimatic drinks dispenser to produce a cup of tea. Instead, it invariably produces a concoction (which most people found unpleasant) that is "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea". One of the primary goals of the player, as Arthur Dent, in the computer game The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is to thwart the machine and find some decent tea, a mission that the player is constantly reminded of by the inventory item "no tea". According to the Jargon File, the briefer "not entirely unlike" has entered hacker jargon.
"Share and Enjoy" is the slogan of the complaints division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. In the radio version, this phrase had its own song (sung in fit the ninth of the radio series), which was sung by a choir of robots during "special occasions". However, the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation tends to produce inherently faulty goods, which makes the slogan ironic since few people would "Share and Enjoy" a product that does not function properly. Among the design flaws is the choir of robots that sings the song: they sing a tritone out of tune with the accompaniment. The Guide relates that the words "Share and Enjoy" were displayed in illuminated letters three miles high near the Sirius Cybernetics Complaints Department, until their weight caused them to collapse through the underground offices of many young executives. The upper half of the sign that now protrudes translates in the local tongue as "Go stick your head in a pig", and is lit up only for special celebrations.
The fit the twentieth of the radio series features a personal computer OS booting sound (à la The Microsoft Sound) set to the tune of "Share and Enjoy". Furthermore, fit the twenty-first of the radio series, the last episode in the adaption of the novel So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, features a polyphonic ringtone version of the tune. The "Share and Enjoy" tune also is used in the TV series as the backing for a Sirius Cybernetics Corporation robot commercial (slogan: "Your plastic pal who's fun to be with!").
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
After mice, the second most intelligent species on Earth were the dolphins.
Smith, Mol (2007). 42 - The Answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything. Maurice Smith. pp. 178 pages. ISBN 978-0-9557137-0-5.
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