42 is the answer to the Ultimate Question of 'Life, the Universe, and Everything'. This answer was first discovered by the computer Deep Thought after seven and a half million years of calculation. The result of this shocking answer was the construction of an even bigger computer the task of which was to determine just what this 'Ultimate Question' was really asking in the first place. That even bigger computer was . . the Earth.
The Earth was destroyed by the Vogons five minutes before its ten-million year program was due to be completed.
At one point in the Hitchhiker saga, one of the only two humans who had survived the destruction of Earth, namely Arthur Dent, pulls random Scrabble tiles from a bag. When his friend, Ford Prefect, lines up the tiles, they spell, 'What do you get when you multiply six by nine?' Some readers of Adams have thought that this question was the aforementioned Ultimate Question. After all, it is Arthur who has been led to reveal this answer; Arthur is indeed from Earth; the Earth was the giant computer built to work out exactly what the Ultimate Question was; and 'what is 6 x 9?' is a bona fide question.
However: the Golgafrinchams (or rather the useless third of their population . .) have arrived on Earth; and this has interfered with the Earth as program-to-determine-the-Ultimate-Question. Hence, 'What is six by nine?' is not the Ultimate Question; and, of course, anyway, 6 x 9 is 54, not 42. Readers have speculated, though, that 6 x 9 does indeed equal 42 when one calculates in base 13. Adams responded thus: 'I may be a sorry case, but I don't write jokes in base 13.'
- chapters 3, 6 and 9 of Joll ed., Philosophy and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
A Random QuestionEdit
If you built a straight tunnel through the earth between any two points on the surface and jumped in one end, how many minutes would it take to fall and reach the other end?
Would you reach the other end? Nope
Inspiration for numberEdit
There are quite a lot of numbers to choose from, so why did Douglas Adams choose 42? Basically he wanted a small, ordinary, innocuous number and he picked 42. This message from Adams explains his choice.