42 is the ultimate truth


The number 42 is the one calculated by a supercomputer answer on the question "after life, the universe and everything else"(English“ life, the universe and everything ”or in other words: after the meaning of life).


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

In the novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" 42 was determined by the super computer Deep Thought (as the Answer to everything), which took 7.5 million years to do this.

However, he points out to his clients, the white mice, that the answer “forty-two” seems meaningless, since the beings who asked him never really knew what the question was exactly. Quote: "I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is."

When charged with producing the ultimate question of life, he says that he cannot; however, it will help to develop an even more powerful computer that can compute this question. This new computer will tie living beings into the "computer matrix" and run for ten million years. It reveals itself as the planet Earth, whose pan-dimensional creators take the form of white laboratory mice to watch its evolution.

The process is then halted five minutes before completion when Vogons destroy Earth to make way for a new hyperspace bypass.

This picture visualizes the central role of the number 42 as an answer to the question about "life, the universe and all the rest".

The restaurant at the end of the universe

In the sequel "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" this is revealed as a trick: the Vogons were hired by a consortium of psychiatrists, led by Gag Halfrunt, who feared he would lose his career if the ultimate question emerged.

Without a real question, the mice decide not to tackle the whole thing again and come up with an out-of-the-air suggestion, "How many ways does a man have to go?" (from Bob Dylan's song "Blowin 'in the Wind") as the ultimate question (to which 42 is the answer).

At the end of the novel, after escaping Earth's destruction, Arthur Dent may have some of the computer matrix in his brain. He tries to discover the ultimate question by extracting it from his brainwave patterns, as suggested by his alien friend Prefect Ford.
Like a caveman playing Scrabble, he draws random letters from a bag, but only the phrase "What do you get when you multiply 6 by 9?" surrender. Then the following dialogue relaxes:

"Six by nine. Forty-two."
"That's it. That's all there is."
"I always knew something was wrong with the universe."

Six times nine is fifty-four, of course. The answer is deliberately wrong. The program on "Computer Earth" should have run correctly, but the unexpected arrival of the Golgafrinchans on prehistoric earth caused input errors. The system then calculated the wrong question (also in Arthur's subconscious) (Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO for short)).


When asked why the answer was "42", the author Douglas Adams wrote in a Usenet article in 1993 about the origin of the number:
“The answer to that is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary little number, and that's what I chose. Binary representations, base 13, Tibetan monks are all nonsense. I sat at my desk and stared out into the garden and thought, "42 fits". I typed it. End of the story."


Mathematically, 42 (forty-two) is the natural number that follows 41 and precedes 43 ;-).

Pronic number

It is also the seventh pronic number (square number). This means a number that is the product of two consecutive whole numbers, i.e. a number of the form n multiplied by (n + 1); for example: 3 x 4 = 12.
The first square numbers are: 0, 2, 6, 12, 20, 30, 42, 56, 72, 90, 110, ...
The study of these numbers goes back to Aristotle. Some authors exclude zero so that the sequence of numbers starts with two.


The number 42 can also be represented as the result of a complicated calculation: ((1 * 2 * 3) - 4 + 5) * 6 = (7) * 6 = 42.
In the number system based on 13, the statement "9 * 6 = 42" is correct (Douglas Adams said: "nobody writes jokes in base 13")!

In the binary system this results in the number "101010"

4 and 2 show special features in the prime factorization. 4 is the first number with more than two factors and 2 is the only even prime number. 4 is also the square number of 2.

Sum of three integer cube numbers

In September 2019, the British mathematician Andrew Booker (University of Bristol), together with his American colleague Andrew Sutherland from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), showed that the number 42 can be represented as the summer of 3 whole-number cubic numbers.

42=(-80538738812075974)3 + 804357581458175153 + 126021232973356313

This was made possible through the use of the Charity Engine, a platform for distributed computing based on the BOINC software. The solution required over a million hours of distributed computing time on countless PCs.

Background: As early as 1954, a problem was analyzed at the University of Cambridge in which a solution was sought for the general equation k = x³ + y³ + z³ for whole numbers up to 100. The particular difficulty here: x, y and z should also be whole numbers.

As early as the 1970s, mathematicians determined by means of a theoretical proof that for whole numbers k, which result in the remainder 4 or 5 when divided by 9 (i.e. 4, 5, 13, 14, 22, 23, 31, 32, 40, 41, 49, 50, 58, 59, 67, 68, 76, 77, 85, 86, 94 and 95) cannot give a solution.
With the discovery of the solution to 42, this mathematical puzzle has now been solved for every possible number under 100.

Number mysticism

The popularity of the novel has ensured that the number 42 has found its way into our daily lives many times over and is used in the strangest of contexts.

  • In computer science, the number 42 is often used as a “magic” number, ie as a fixed numerical value that everyone can see that it has no deeper meaning, but is just an example of any value (analogous to 0815 and 4711).
  • In the computer game "Gothic" (first published in 2001) "42" is a code that deactivates all cheats. After entering "42" in the right place, the text "What was the question?" Appears.
  • You enter the search field on Google the answer to life, the universe and everything one, so you get as a result 42.

  • The talking can, Alexa, answers the question "What is the meaning of life?" With "42, but don't forget the towel."
  • The British band "Level 42" also referred to the number mentioned in the novel when naming it.
  • In "The X Files: The FBI's Creepy Cases", the male protagonist Fox Mulder lives in an apartment with the number 42. This has been confirmed by the creator of the mystery series, Chris Carter, as a reference to the "Hitchhiker".
  • XLII is the Roman spelling of 42.
  • The decimal number 42 stands in the ASCII character coding for an asterisk (*); In computer science, these are often used as a "wildcard" (placeholder for everything).


The application of the number 42 extends to many areas. It has been used for a long time in ancient times and also by conspiracy theorists and in some cases it is a reference to the "hitchhiker".

  • 42 is one of the most important "holy numbers" in ancient Egypt (42 Gaue, 42 judges of the dead, ...)
  • The height of the burial chamber of the Great Pyramid of Cheops above the ground is 42 (in meters)
  • The transition metal molybdenum (MO) has the atomic number 42.
  • In conspiracies, it is common to describe a letter by the numerical value of its position in the Latin alphabet. The abbreviation 81MC (Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club) is often used in connection with the Hell's Angels.
  • If the numbers from 1-26 are assigned to the letters from AZ (from the Latin alphabet, i.e. without umlauts, etc.), the result is D. + A + d + a + m + s = 4 + 1 + 4 + 1 + 13 +19 = 42
  • 6 weeks have exactly 42 days. Just coincidence?
  • Elvis Presley, who is also featured in the Hitchhiker's Guide, died at the age of 42 on August 16, 1977. OR he has lived on another planet since then, sits in a bar there, plays the guitar and has a pink spaceship with lavish chrome decorations ... (as described by Douglas Adams.)
  • February 11th is the 42nd day of the year, and was traded as a possible Memorial Day for Douglas Adams. Ultimately, however, the so-called “Towel Day” was put on May 25th.
  • A marathon is 42.195 km - 42 km rounded. So the meaning of life must have something to do with exercise.
  • The number 42 also had a special meaning for the mathematician and writer Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898). In his books “Alice in Wonderland” (1865) and “The Hunting of the Snark” (1876) he uses them, apparently randomly placed, in different contexts.