A story is told about two learned ones who seek the answer to the meaning of life. A super computer named Deep Thought (voiced by Helen Mirren) spends seven and a half million years calculating a response and comes up simply with "42." When the learned ones express their disapproval, they are told that the most important thing is the question about the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
42 is the number of cells in Connect Four.
42nd Street is the major east-west street of Times Square, in New York.
42 is the angle in degrees for which a rainbow appears.
42 is the number with which God creates the Universe in Kabalistic tradition.
In House MD, House says his lucky number is 42
In the book, there is Rule 42 which says that anyone taller than a mile must leave the court immediately. That becomes a problem for Alice when she eats some mushrooms.
There is another theory that rests on a complex allusion to 42 in numerical base 13. It sparked Adams' retort: "I don't write jokes in base 13."
So what does Stephen Fry, a close friend, voice of the audiobook, and possibly one of the most intelligent admirers of The Hitchhiker's Guide think?
"Of course, it would be unfair for me to comment," he confides. "Douglas told me in the strictest confidence exactly why 42. The answer is fascinating, extraordinary and, when you think hard about it, completely obvious. Nonetheless amazing for that.
"Remarkable really. But sadly I cannot share it with anyone and the secret must go with me to the grave. Pity, because it explains so much beyond the books. It really does explain the secret of life, the universe, and everything."
It is known answers and questions are mutually exclusive, but this isn't really very helpful
In an eerie example of life imitating art, the team from the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, while studying the dying echo of the Big Bang, has discovered a surprising scientific constant which determines the age of the universe.
In Adam’s cult novel, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the computer known as Deep Thought number crunched for 7.5 million years to calculate that the answer to the biggest question of all was 42. But it has taken the Cambridge team just 10 years to arrive at the same preliminary conclusion.
Scientists made the discovery after trying a new technique to evaluate the Hubble Constant, a measurement which indicates how quickly objects in the universe are moving away from each other and thereby how long ago all the objects were together at some point. Taking the average of two different measurements for the constant, they determined that the answer was 42. The value of the Hubble Constant gives an age for the universe of about 15 billion years, older than previous estimates using different methods.
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'