Browse Definitions :
Definition

42 (h2g2, meaning of life, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

Contributor(s): Josh Harmon, Peter Minearo and Mike Smith

In Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the number from which all meaning ("the meaning of life, the universe, and everything") could be derived.

A BBC radio script based on Adams' book contains the following lines:

("Cave man" lays out following sentence in Scrabble stones: "What do you get if you multiply six by nine?")
Arthur: Six by nine? Forty-two? You know, I've always felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with the Universe.
(Faint and distant voice:) Base thirteen!

For the literal-minded and those unfamiliar with terms like "base thirteen," this is a number system in which the number 10 is equivalent to our more familiar decimal 13. A base-13 number 42, therefore, is the same as four 13s plus 2, or decimal 54. So "six by nine" (six times nine) or decimal 54 is, in base 13, 42. For the mystically inclined, 42 in base 13 is the same as 101010 in binary (base 2). This could mean almost anything, and many Adams fans have spent untold hours discovering all of the places where the number "42" pops up. For example, there are many mentions of the number in the Book of Revelation. Others have made a game of finding 42s, such as these:

  • The angle at which light reflects off of water to create a rainbow is 42 degrees.
  • Two physical constants in the universe are the speed of light and the diameter of a proton. It takes light 10 to the minus 42nd power seconds to cross the diameter of a proton.
  • The sum of the ordinal alphabetic positions of the initials (SPG) for Stan (P.) Gibilisco, an oft-published science and technology writer, is equal to 42 (S=19, P=16, G=7).
  • A barrel holds 42 gallons.

(It should be noted that all of these 42s are base 10, not base 13.)

This was last updated in April 2007

Continue Reading About 42 (h2g2, meaning of life, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

Join the conversation

3 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

It is also the case that:
105 (base 8) is 69 (base 10),
105 (base 10) is 69 (base 16),
105 (base 16) is 69 (base 42).
Cancel
42 in japanese translates to "shini" and "gami" put together as "shinigami" Meaning God of death.
Cancel
"42" was a favorite number of Lewis Carroll - featured several times in the Alice books and "The Hunting of the Snark".  And Douglas Adams was an obvious fan of Carroll's work.  (He gave it away in his first version of h2g2 - naming the radio episodes by the archaic title "fits", borrowing from Carroll's use in The Hunting of the Snark.)

Especially important to h2g2's equation and "solution", the very first time Carroll hinted at his love of this number was when Alice was attempting to repeat her times tables (chapter two of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) Her effort breaks down at 4 x 13 answered in base 42, which virtually reverses the failure of 'the Question' in h2g2, in that this one works when calculated in base 13.

In light of this, it is difficult to imagine that Adams was not drawing on Carroll  (and especially on the above chapter) in choosing and 'solving' for 42.



Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • compliance audit

    A compliance audit is a comprehensive review of an organization's adherence to regulatory guidelines.

  • regulatory compliance

    Regulatory compliance is an organization's adherence to laws, regulations, guidelines and specifications relevant to its business...

  • Whistleblower Protection Act

    The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a law that protects federal government employees in the United States from ...

SearchSecurity

  • payload (computing)

    In computing, a payload is the carrying capacity of a packet or other transmission data unit. The term has its roots in the ...

  • passphrase

    A passphrase is a string of characters longer than the usual password (which is typically from four to 16 characters long) that ...

  • Web application firewall (WAF)

    A Web application firewall (WAF) is a firewall that monitors, filters or blocks traffic to and from a Web application. WAFs are ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

SearchStorage

  • computational storage

    Computational storage is defined as an architecture that couples compute with storage in order to reduce data movement. In doing ...

  • data deduplication

    Data deduplication -- often called intelligent compression or single-instance storage -- is a process that eliminates redundant ...

  • public cloud storage

    Public cloud storage, also called storage-as-a-service or online storage is a service model that provides data storage on a ...

Close