14
votes

I have seen this on the SO on many times. Whenever a question is vague and the question is asking some magical answer somebody or the other leaves a comment saying answer is 42. Even a book I am reading right now uses '42' as the number whenever it wants demonstrate some basic concept using an integer. So is there any history behind it or it is just a coincidence?

  • Now that Fishtoaster's answer has reached 42 upvotes, I'm locking this to preserve the awesomeness forever. – yannis Nov 4 '12 at 17:00
42
votes

It's the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

  • 8
    I thought everyone knew this. :( – Nathan Taylor Sep 3 '10 at 1:41
  • 8
    If I ever write a programming language I will allow for base 13 integers. Then 6 * 9 will finally be 42, and the universe will instantly be replaced with something vastly more complex!! I've a feeling that this has already happened... – Joe D Sep 17 '10 at 18:32
  • 1
    Why in the world is this a :-(, @Nathan Taylor? Surely you're not suggesting that all programmers subscribe to some single monoculture. – Andy Lester Oct 8 '10 at 21:59
  • 4
    @Andy Lester it's not just a single monoculture, it is the monoculture. – Nathan Taylor Oct 9 '10 at 13:07
  • 1
    I have not read the book but I know the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything is 42. – timur Mar 16 '11 at 6:29
18
votes

As Fishtoaster mentioned, the number 42 has gained pop-culture status via Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but its true origins are from Lewis Carroll (from whom Adams gained occasional inspiration).

  • 1
    Some of the examples in that article are pretty sketchy, especially where it starts getting into mathematical extrapolation and alternate base numbering. – Fishtoaster Sep 2 '10 at 19:14

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