Princess Muse

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Musings about the Number 42

So, today is Thursday.  I've been waiting for a Thursday to talk about the Number 42.

42 is my second favorite number, which, in a way, is very funny because my first favorite number is 21, and 42 is double 21.  (It's real easy to fall into weird numerology traps, but I'll try to resist.  But I'll probably fail because resistance is useless.) (Oh, and the significance of 21?  July 3, 1965 = 7 X 3 = 21 and 1+9+6+5= 21.... which will also give you .... 42...)

Up until 1981, I had lived a fairly normal existence.  Well, at least as normal as an Army Brat can claim.  Then, in the Fall of '81, I came upon a wholly remarkable book.  It was an odd looking book:  Blue, with a large hitchhiking thumb and a green planet sticking it tongue out and thumbs in it's...ears?  There are a couple of other planets hanging around, but except for the odd colors and stripes they are almost... normal.

The book, of course, is the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.  The book is based on the radio play that first aired on BBC radio (if you want to discover the whens and wherefores, just's all out there.)  This is the series popularly known as a "Trilogy in 5 book"... although Eoin Colfer has written a 6th Book (The six books are:  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, Mostly Harmless, and And Another Thing...)  In our Freshman year, Arlyn and I found an album of the radio plays and Ken and I have have found the tv show on DVD.  (Arlyn got custody of the album....mainly because I didn't have a record player at the time and she did.)

So, I did a little research (and I do mean little) into reasons why Douglas Adams used the number 42 for his Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything.  I read how perhaps it was an homage to Lewis Carroll, who was Very Fond of the Number 42 (I don't know I have to look everything up for you?), to it's the number of lines of text on the average page of a book (I don't know if that's true for eReaders....and no, I'm not going to count it out for you.... at least not today.), but the answer I like the best is because it's just a silly sounding number.  He needed a number and just picked 42.  Now, it's possible that he had read or seen it recently and that's why he picked it out, but really, does there need to be a reason?  Especially in that book?

But, oddly enough, the number 42 does have some weird significance in the world.  Wikipedia has a whole page devoted to the number 42 (although I don't think it's a definitive list, but it's a pretty funny list--although there's a whole math thing that made my eyes glaze over.)  And it seems that 42 is connected to the Weight of the Universe.

The year I turned 42, I declared it to be my Hitchhiker Year.  No, I didn't go around in pajamas, a terry robe with a towel, in search of a decent cuppa..... but I wish I had a Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster.

Well, time to go aMuse myself and read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy again... for more than the 42nd time....

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