Talk:Phrases from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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"The answer is simple: there is no spoon. Follow the white rabbit" should be removed or supported.[edit]

The final sentence of the first paragraph of section 1 seems to be a quote from The Matrix. Without additional knowledge, a reference or an explanation, it makes no sense in a HGttG context, and comes across as an "in" joke. Either it should be removed, or enhanced so that a casual reader will understand its relevance to the topic of the article. -- Dan Griscom (talk) 11:07, 5 April 2015 (UTC)

Subtle vandalism of the sort that gives Wikipedia a bad name. Thanks for spotting it! Serendipodous 11:46, 5 April 2015 (UTC)

42 and six times nine[edit]

Of course, this answer is deliberately wrong: six times nine is, in fact, fifty-four - a misunderstanding entirely too common in those that fail to recognise that the universe is based on misfortune, the decimal number of which is thirteen. (If it still needs spelling out in black and white, six times nine base thirteen is, of course, 42.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:54, 3 May 2015 (UTC)

Adams made clear that base 13 was a coincidence. Serendipodous 08:53, 3 May 2015 (UTC)


When one looks at the number 42 something seems to be missing. However, since 0 literally equals nothing, then nothing is missing, making the answer to life, the universe and everything 42(0) :) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:08, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

  • The Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe and Everything is "how many cups of tea should a person drink each month?" Scientists are constantly researching tea-drinking and will eventually come to this conclusion. Jack N. Stock (talk) 17:40, 20 September 2018 (UTC)

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Don't panic[edit]

Did Adams get this phrase from the 1960s/1970s BBC comedy series Dad's Army? It was one of the best-known catchphrases from this very popular tv series (as shouted (usually) by Corporal Jones), and I wonder if Adams ever talked about his use of the phrase and whether he 'borrowed' from Dad's Army? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:49, 7 February 2018 (UTC)

Perhaps this has a point. See also below, where 42 in context of the German V1 attacks on London plays a role.-- (talk) 18:11, 20 September 2019 (UTC)


I explained my reason for removing it; you did not explain your reason for reinstating it. This is just some guy off the street's headcanon about a possible origin of 42. The citation does not mention HHGG and merely backs up the fact that 42 is the ASCII for *. The connection with HHGG is purely in this person's head. Serendipodous 23:53, 21 November 2018 (UTC)

User:Serendipodous You have a legitimate concern that there is not a source directly connecting it to the book.
User:RogierBrussee I found your information useful. Whether by design or serendipitous coincidence, 42 as an ASCII wildcard was an amusing and worthwhile connection.
You are both respected and experienced editors.
I reduced it to a note. It is context, and its inclusion at that level benefits the reader, and does no harm to the article. This was a compromise; both of you are sincere and acting in AGF. We should consider our readers first, and err on the side of too much of the irrelevant, rather than too little of the relevant.
Some fights are not worth fighting. I suggest you both think about WP:Dead horse.
Have a happy Thanksgiving (depending on where you are). Let us all give thanks for working together and producing a great encyclopædia. Cheers. 7&6=thirteen () 13:18, 22 November 2018 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but Wikipedia discussions don't work that way. You can't just shut one down because you think it's silly. If material shouldn't be on here, it shouldn't be on here. If we include any random reference to the number 42, then why not include every reference to the number 42 ever published? And I live in London; I won't be seeing turkey til Christmas. Serendipodous 17:33, 22 November 2018 (UTC)
I allowed for your geographic difference.
I think it belongs here; and this is an saddle point in the discussion.
Nor was I 'shutting down' the discussion.
You don't own this article. Neither do I.
We will have to wait for consensus to build, and agree to disagree. 7&6=thirteen () 19:25, 22 November 2018 (UTC)

I am a mathematician, and I think I know what I am talking about (case in point: I fixed up the page on Hurwitz automorphism theorem just to have something correct and easy to follow to refer to). Many of my non mathematics friends and all of my mathematician friends (several of whom are math professors), agreed immediately that the characterisation of 42 is the "right" one, and makes it actually a rather _interesting_ number. They urged me to put it on Wikipedia for several years, and I eventually succumbed. Riemann surfaces are really a core thing in more advanced mathematics, and very similar arguments crop up elsewhere, for example in the ADE classification of Lie groups, which is another really central thing in math(it doesn't quite give 42 so I didn't include it but it is a very similar idea). It is perfectly ironic that even most mathematicians think 42 is a "boring" number. In fact there is a Numberphile video (a popular you-tube channel on mathematics) where the first sentence is that 42 is not a very interesting number mathematically but very special in nerd culture . They even explain 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/7 + 1/42 = 1 as an example of "pseudo perfect numbers" (see 4:20) but unfortunately they miss the importance of having just 3 factors which makes it look a bit artificial. The importance of being the largest of the form 1/ (1- 1/p - 1/q - 1/r) and its connection to Hurwitz automorphism theorem is pointed out in the remarks, but I was the one doing that (my earlier halfhearted attempt to make it better known), so it doesn't really count.
The little paragraph has grown a bit when I reworked it a bit to make Hurwitz automorphism theorem a "Life, the Universe and Everything" question. I don't particularly mind having it reverted to its earlier slightly shorter state, except I don't recall if I fixed small typos and link thingies. I have no connection with the ASCII asterisk paragraph, other than seeing it, and thinking that a bit of math was at least as much on the topic for the number 42.
We're not talking about that. I'm not qualified to make a judgement on that. What we are talking about, specifically, is the reference to the 42 "*" ASCII code. Serendipodous 11:52, 23 November 2018 (UTC)
Yes, you may not be talking about that, but you removed it. Threw out the Baby with the bathwater? 7&6=thirteen () 15:02, 23 November 2018 (UTC)
No, I didn't remove it. I only removed the ASCII line. Please do not accuse me of doing things I did not do. Serendipodous 19:11, 23 November 2018 (UTC)

Sorry, if I got it wrong. I guess there was no collateral damage by you. 7&6=thirteen () 00:17, 24 November 2018 (UTC)

The ASCII part seems irrelevant to me, and of the kind of trivia that would fill up this article with useless information. The ASCII table can not count as verification, as it makes no mention of HHGG. This is WP:ORIGINAL and numerology.
Hurwitz's automorphism theorem has at least been mentioned in the context of HHGG.[1] Maybe one can defend to mention it in a half sentence. I wouldn't support the mention, and much less spending an entire paragraph on it. The reference [2] is almost certainly a joke making use of the Strong Law of Small Numbers (there is a Numberphile video for this, too, if you like that). There is no denying that the number 42 appears in serious mathematical contexts; but that can be said of any sufficiently small number. If Adams had chosen 41 or 43, this discussion would be about lucky numbers of Euler instead of Hurwitz's automorphism theorem.
The fact that "mathematicians found a question whose answer is 42" is irrelevant for that reason, as that is true for every number that is small enough. The "hint at the fact that 42 is mathematically not just any random number" is in fact just that: A hint that 42 is too small to be random.[3] Renerpho (talk) 00:20, 24 November 2018 (UTC)

To a large extent, you are right: all small numbers are special in some sense. But 42 and (2,3,7) really are rather more pervasive than the numbers 41 or 43 which are essentially just a boring pair of twin primes and not very special twins at that. Try finding halfway interesting _questions_ that give them as an answer. Note for example that you don't have to ask for the largest _integer_ n such that 1 - 1/p - 1/q - 1/r = 1/n but any _rational number_ for which there are obviously an infinite number of small ones to choose from. Sure that blog by John Baez (who is not just a prolific blogger but a very good and well respected mathematician) mentions 42 in relation to the HHGG because he likes an informal tone in his blogs, but he really wants to talk about hyperbolic tilings, the Klein quartic and Hurwitz. It is a complete coincidence that Adams chose 42 as any stupid integer number, and it turns out to be not a stupid number at all. I am biased but I find that all cute and ironic in a fitting way.


This is all very subjective, and unless you back it up with reliable sources (rather than personal opionions/preferences), the argument that any number is more pervasive than any other is void. I understand your fascination for the mathematical topic, but as you said yourself, you appear to be biased. Remember that Wikipedia is not a blog, it is an encyclopedia. I think the paragraph about Hurwitz in its current form is unencyclopedic (subjective,unsourced and irrelevant). On that ground, it should be replaced by a single sentence that links to Hurwitz's automorphism theorem and the blog post by Baez. Renerpho (talk) 13:37, 28 November 2018 (UTC)

Another false myth of the origin of 42[edit]

A recent internet meme is saying since Douglas Adams was a software engineer, and the ASCII symbol at position 42 (decimal) is an asterix, therefore the answer is "*", where "*" in mathematical expressions is multiply, and in regular expressions means 0 or more, and in SQL can mean "anything", or "all". TimeHorse (talk) 15:39, 13 March 2019 (UTC)

Connect Four[edit]

This Connect Four set was from a mental ward in SCUH, Australia, between Jan and March 2019. At the time I thought that the meaning of life, etc, (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) was 42, and the question was "what's 6x7?" (according to the movie script). For some reason I thought I'd count the pieces and the result was unexpected. I wonder how often sets are like this - 1 in 1000? And it was the first time I'd ever tried counting the pieces. There should be 21 of each because tied games are possible.


42 in V1 bombing of London in WW II[edit]

Decades before Adam's novel, the number "42" played a crucial role in World War II. Nazi Germany started to use V1, their first V-Weapon on June 15, 1944. According to David Irvings book "The Mare's Nest" from 1964 the order for the 55 German launchpads reads (p. 189 bottom): >>> All catapults open fire on Target Forty-two with salvo synchronised at 11:18 p.m. (Impact at 11:40 p.m.) Uniform range 130 miles. Then sustained fire until 4:50 a.m. <<<

42 was the codename for London. Would it be appropriate to mention this coincidence in the article? -- (talk) 15:05, 20 September 2019 (UTC)

No, it would most certainly not be appropriate. Unless you have reliable secondary sources which explicitly draw a straight line from the Nazis' "42" to Adams' "42", which I sincerely doubt that you have. Anything else is original research and prohibited here on Wikipedia. Elizium23 (talk) 17:31, 20 September 2019 (UTC)