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The meaning of life, the universe and everything else: the answer is 42

When Douglas Adams wrote "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", he did not see the relevance of one of the innumerable occurrences that the reader can find in its pages. After more than seven million years processing a question, a supercomputer of gigantic dimensions ends up answering that "the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything else is 42."

As part of popular culture, fans of the novel have racked their brains since its publication in 1978 trying to ascribe a deep and symbolic meaning to the number 42. At the moment, no one has come up with an answer that will satisfy the geek community, but the truth is that throughout history many numbers have had special meanings attributed to them. Furthermore, philosophers like Plato considered the study of numerical symbolism as the highest level of knowledge. Others like Pythagoras believed that numbers had souls and even magical powers. Our obsession with numbers comes from afar, but42 is the number of our time..

If there is a collective that has elevated the number 42 to the category of cult number, that is the programmers. 42 is 101010 in binary, and the 42nd ASCII character is the asterisk, which is considered a wildcard. Both coincidences have given rise to many Easter eggs and hidden references. At 42 Madrid, where there are no teachers to guide students in their learning, knowing how to ask yourself the right questions takes on a primary value. Knowledge exists and can be achieved by investigating by oneself and with colleagues, but it is necessarylearn how to learn. 42 embraces that spirit and never stop wondering. By the way, have you tried to enter “the answer to life the universe and everything” in the Google search engine? A good time to do this would be when you finish reading this article.

As fans of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and programmers around the globe persist in deciphering all that the number 42 hides, we leave you with 42 facts that we hope will end up fuelling your fledgling fascination with this number:

  1. The world’s first book printed with moving letters is the Gutenberg Bible has42lines per page.
  2. Between the first movie and the last in the Star Wars Skywalker saga,42years passed.
  3. The episode of the Doctor Who series titled “42” lasts42minutes.
  4. The Titanic was traveling at a speed equivalent to 42km/h when it collided with the iceberg.
  5. In East Asia, including some parts of China, tall buildings often avoid having a 42 floor due to tetraphobia; fear of the number four because the words “four” and “death” sound the same (see or sei). Also, four 14, 24, etc.
  6. Elvis Presley died at the age of 42.
  7. The spaceship of Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear is called 42..
  8. The youngest president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, was 42years old when he was elected.
  9. The office of Google CEO Eric Schmidt in the firm’s San Francisco complex is called Building 42..
  10. A single Big Mac burger contains 42 percent of the recommended daily intake of salt.
  11. The sport of cricket has 42 rules.
  12. Fox Mulder’s apartment in the American television series The X-Files was number42..
  13. On page 42 of the original edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry discovers that he is a wizard.
  14. On page 42 of Bram Stoker’s original edition of Dracula, Jonathan Harker discovers that he is a prisoner of the vampire.
  15. On page 42 of the original edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein reveals that he is capable of creating life.
  16. In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Friar Lawrence gives Juliet a potion that allows her to be in a mortal coma for “two and forty hours.”.
  17. The three best-selling music albums in history: Michael Jackson’s Thriller, AC/DC’s Back in Black and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, last 42 minutes.
  18. In 2004, asteroid DA42was renamed 25924 Douglasadams.
  19. A marathon has a distance of 42 km and 195 m.
  20. Each year, an average of 42.000 balls are used at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
  21. The element molybdenum has the atomic number 42 and is also the 42nd most common element in the universe.
  22. Cell 42 on Alcatraz Island was the home of Robert Stroud, who was transferred to this prison in 1942. After a serious altercation, he spent 42 years in solitary confinement in different prisons.
  23. In the Book of Revelation, it is prophesied that the Beast will have dominion over the earth for 42 months.
  24. Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has 42 illustrations.
  25. 42 is the favourite number of Dr House, the American television doctor played by Hugh Laurie.
  26. In an episode of The Simpsons, Police Chief Wiggum wakes up to a question directed at him and answers “42”..
  27. There are 42 principles of Ma’at, the ancient Egyptian goddess of physical and moral law, order and truth.
  28. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died at age 42; they had 42 grandchildren and her great-grandson, Edward VIII, abdicated at age 42.
  29. There are 42 territories in the board game “Risk”.
  30. When the Large Hadron Collider science complex had to build a new office building, they named their new complex Building 42..
  31. The index of refraction of light on water at the point where a rainbow is created is 42 degrees.
  32. 42 is the last number of the sequence that is part of one of the great mysteries of the Lost series.
  33. In the tradition of the Kabbalah there is a number of 42 letters with mystical significance related to another Babylonian name that also contained the same number of letters. Both refer to “the infinite.”
  34. British band Coldplay has a song called “42”.
  35. Adult dogs and wolves have 42 teeth.
  36. The official specifications for the TIFF files state that it was decided to use the number 42 at the beginning of each file because of “its deep philosophical significance”.
  37. Chuck Yeager was the first pilot to break the sound barrier. He did it at 42,000 feet high.
  38. The maximum possible score in an International Mathematical Olympiad is 42..
  39. 42 hams were used to break the Guinness record for the world’s largest sandwich. It happened in Huelva.
  40. The door to heaven in the Supernatural series is marked with the number 42..
  41. 42 years ago, the first spam mail in history was sent. You can read about it on 42 Madrid’s twitter account..
  42. The writer of these lines lives at number 42 of his street and on the 4th floor, 2nd door.

The myths surrounding the number 42 make as little sense as the response of a supercomputer in a humorous British novel. “The answer to this is very simple,” Adams said before he passed away. “It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, small number, and I chose that one. The binary representations, the base-13 numbering systems, the Tibetan monks… that doesn’t make any sense. I just sat at my desk, looked out into the garden, thought, “42 will do” and typed it in. End of story”.

By Eduardo Santana