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This House believes that Douglas Adams could have chosen no better number than 42 as the answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything.


When Douglas Adams was asked why he chose 42 as the answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything, he replied, "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."

End of story fair enough, but the start of a debate for light relief. Could he have chosen a better number than 42? One thing's for sure, there are many worse... (This is not an area for Douglas Adams trivia postings!)

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  1. Douglas Adams was right, it would have to be a small and ordinary number or otherwise it wouldn't be funny. 369984 is a silly enough answer, but say it aloud; "three hundred and sixty-nine thousand nine hundred and eighty-four". It's far too long winded to be funny and it wouldn't catch. Even "one thousand..." is far too long.

  2. Ok, 369984 might be too long, but a single digit is too short. 

  3. Single digits are no good, because they all represent something in the public conscious. e.g. 7 deadly sins. This also gets rid of 11, 12 and 69.

  4. 13 would work; Life, it's unlucky for some.

  5. 13's a little too corny. Give Douglas Adams a little more credit.

  6. Repeating digits are no good either, 22, 33, 44, 555 etc. They're all a bit naff.

  7. Ok, instead of being negative, how about suggesting a number. I say 17. 

  8. Not even in the same league. I think it needs to be at least three syllables. 

  9. Ok then, 34.

  10. 42 has a magical me that is. Strange how it has come up throughout my life and may well be the answer to everything...

  11. I can't help thinking that comment 10 and indeed the whole debate isn't being a bit sentimental. We only think 42 sounds good because it is what we are used to. If Douglas Adams had chose 34, we would all be saying that 34 was the "best" number.

  12. I say 24.

  13. What about 48? Sounds good to me.

  14. The problem with both  17, 34, 24 and 48 is that the second number is greater than the first. This implies an increasing, a going forward, a progressing. This feature may a suitable descriptor of the universe, but it is no good as answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything in a book such as Douglas Adams'. The answer needed to be curt, simple and boring to fit in with the style of the book (and also to make it funny)

  15. No, 42 has an imbalance. I would use a round figure or better still, zero, to represent the meaning of life and the universe. The universe is definitely not square; it is round, like zero. It started with a big bang when there was zero. They say someday, it will all end and be nothing, like a zero. Moreover, we start our life at zero and after attaining a certain age / experience, die and become a zero.

  16. That's being far too logical. Adams' goal was certainly not to have come up with a number that really symbolised the universe, which isn't possible anyway. Had he chosen zero, everyone would have thought "oh, is that it, how boring, that sounds like mathematics to me". 

  17. 42 it is. Even Major League Baseball retired the number. [In 1997, Major League Baseball officials decided to honor Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color barrier by declaring that no future player would be able to have his shirt number, 42. - Webmaster] 

  18. 42 in Japanese is Shi (4) and Ni (2) Which when spoken out aloud is the same as Shi (death) ni (to go to) i.e.  the meaning of 42 is to go to your death!

  19. I think 42 suits just fine. It is just ordinary enough to set people off looking for its hidden meaning.

  20. What about 4.2?

  21. Just enjoy the book!

  22. Part of enjoying the book is discussing it's ideas!

  23. I think the number Pi is the meaning of life. It can be used to describe
    many of the physical forces on our planet (as well as elsewhere), and the magic
    figure - the circle! The circle is especially important because everything moves in circles or cycles: Planets, the sea, nutrients essential for life, the rock which
    makes up planet earth. What goes around comes around..

  24. There are 42 steps to the Ancient Egyptians' embalming process (how to prepare a mummy.) Also, according to Egyptian texts, when a person dies, before going to the "duat" (underworld/netherworld), the soul must pass through the Halls of Amenti. This is where the soul is judged or weighed against 42 truths. Check out "The Fingerprints of the Gods" or "Message of the Sphinx" by Grahm Hancock and Robert Bauval if you want to know more about the origins of the sacred number we call 42.

  25. 42  is about the time most people go through mid-life crisis and truly find the meaning of life.

  26. 42 is 2b (i.e. to be) upside-down...



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