The Ultimate Question is an unknown question. However, we all know the answer to be 42 from Deep Thought. So what exactly is the question?
After The AnswerEdit
It was realized soon after Deep Thought revealed the answer to Phouchg and Loonquawl that something wasn't right. "42" seemed a little, well, pathetic for seven and a half million years of work. Deep Thought quickly pointed out that the problem was that no one actually knew what the question was. If they knew the question then the answer would make a lot more sense. Then perhaps Phouchg and Loonquawl wouldn't get lynched by the angry mob outside.
Searching For The QuestionEdit
Due to the difficulty in finding the question, The Earth needed such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself formed a part of the program. The Earth was to be a planet teeming with life which the planet builders of Magrathea started building as soon as Deep Thought had finalized the plans. After the planet was completed the program began it's 10 million year run.
Unfortunately for the hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings who were financing all this, the Vogons decided to destroy the Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass five minutes before the program readout was complete. Attempts to retrieve the answer from the only human being who was on the Earth when the Vogons arrived that hadn't been turned into dust were unsuccessful; apparently the human in question, Arthur Dent, was rather selfishly fond of his brain and wouldn't allow it to be removed.
Great fun can be had in designing and proposing Ultimate Questions, however there are a simple set of filters to determine their validity:
- Deep Thought delivered the answer in the non-Earth language of the hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings. It was the Babel Fish that translated the historical record as saying "Forty-Two". Because the Babel Fish was in the ear of an Earth human, who calculated his restaurant tips in base 10, the number represents a smallish number, base 10 forty-two, equivalent to the base 2 101010. If it were anything else, Arthur would have known that; so, no mucking about with the number answer.
- The Answer, forty-two, was the result of Deep Thought's program which the technicians had designated should answer the Ultimate Question, "...of Life, the Universe, and Everything". They then received confirmation from Deep Thought that there was an answer, a simple answer. So, nothing tricky about applying the answer.
- The Book suggested that it would answer all of the philosophical questions including: "What is the meaning of Life?, "Why are we here?", and "Does it really, cosmically speaking, matter if I don't get up and go to work?" So, the question must be broad and not Earth-centric (after all, The Earth was created to find the question); it must take in the majesty, scope, and smells of an entire universe, and any god or gods at work there.
However the answer may have eventually been extracted from Arthur Dent's brain, without the use of sharp cutting implements. Whilst marooned on Earth two million years before he was born, Arthur managed to find a possible question with the help of Ford Prefect using a set of home made Scrabble tiles. The answer encoded in Arthur's brain, through the random pulling of tiles, was:
- What do you get if you multiply six by nine?
- If this is the actual question, then it suggests that the universe is a truly screwed up place, and that the point of the question and answer is to point out this fact.
(if you are currently thinking that in base 13, 6 x 9 is 42 which is 54 in base 10 then the author recommends you leave your computer immediately and do something else with your life before you realise how truly sad it really is. The Question: What is Total Pair of Dice, or What is total paradise? Was put forward by Dan Smith of Leavenworth, Kansas in 1988 . If you add up the sides on a dice 1+2+3+4+5+6 = 21 X 2 = 42.)
"To be or not to be." That is the question, as stated by Shakespear in Hamlet, which we all know, an infinite number of monkeys locked in a room with type writers will eventually come up with. 2b or -2b = the absolute value of 42
The Ultimate Cock UpEdit
After ten million years of calculation involving much anguish and suffering for the life forms living on the Earth the Ultimate Question has never been found. Arthur and Ford found their way to Earth on a Golgafrinchan ship which promptly crashed, stranding the entire useless middle third of Golgafrinchan society on Earth. The Golgafrinchans soon replaced the native people of the Earth, thus ruining the program and leaving the Ultimate Question unknown.
This may be a good thing as many philosophers theorize that if both the Ultimate Question and the Ultimate Answer were ever to be found at the same time then the Universe would disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. Other philosophers conject that this has already happened.