42 and Shades of Green

November 16, 2013

Here’s a wonderful video I found via Numberphile:

The actual, legit facts in this video blow my mind far more than any mystical connection to a number that Douglas Adams has said time and again meant nothing to him other than comic value. (Sort-Of Alert: If you haven’t read the books, you should.) The amazing literary/historical truth to the multitude of theories about this number is that he created – in the real world – an evolving group of people who will do what one of his characters did: wear yourself out on a mystery, and at the end of the night, check a bizarre, personal, and probably foolish hunch on the off-chance that it might reveal the answer. For the people with the theories mentioned in the video, that hunch is now “42”, whatever that means. For Douglas Adams’s Zaphod Beeblebrox, it was the color green. (Read the books.)

For some reason, I love that he was able to (albeit unintentionally) write onto life in such a large and meaningful way. His writing was meaningful to everyone who read it, but I never realized how cool it was that it meant that much to the 42-theorists I’d half-believed at the time I first read the books and who, had I not read the books, I might find too easy to pass off as loonies, so much that they brought his art to life in as literal a way as he probably never, ever hoped for.

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