42: The Real Magical Number

42. That number, in case you didn’t know, is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Douglas Adams’ increasingly mislabeled Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy introduced us to the super computer Deep Thought that provided the answer of 42 to the ultimate question. One must wonder what kind of research Douglas Adams did to arrive at this particular number since it seems to have a profound mystical omnipresence almost on par with the number 3 or number 7. One can expect with great certainty that the appearance of 42 in pop culture has its origins in Douglas Adam’s universe. There are other instances of 42 that lead one to suspect Adams did not just pluck 42 out of thin air as the ultimate answer to the question of life, the universe and everything.

42 degrees is the angle at which light must reflect off water in order to create a rainbow. In the genealogy found in the Gospel of Matthew, 42 generations extend from Abraham to Jesus Christ. In fact, the number 42 holds special significance throughout Judaism and Christianity, as well as in the studies of Kabbalah. There are 42 lines on each page of Gutenberg’s Bible. Another type of religion also has a significance for the number 42: there are exactly 42 dots on a pair of dice. And yet another kind of religion has an importance attached to the number 42. Major League Baseball has so far retired only one number across the entire league. That number is 42 and it was worn by Jackie Robinson. One last thing about religion. The total sum of the area covered by the city of Jerusalem measures 42 square miles.

For instance, is it just coincidence that Elvis Presley died at age 42, or is it some part of a larger conspiracy? And try this one for size: the Starship Enterprise has 42 decks! X-Files fans know that Fox Mulder’s apartment number is 42, but that is a direct homage to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The original design of the Wonderbra has exactly 42 individual parts. Surely, that is not an homage to Douglas Adams.