The meaning of “42”

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

You might not know about Douglas Adams' Trilogy "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Let us quickly quote the Wikipedia reference:

In the story, a "simple answer" to The Ultimate Question is requested from the computer Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42. Unfortunately, The Ultimate Question itself is unknown ...

When asked to produce The Ultimate Question, the computer says that it can't, but it can help design an even more powerful computer (the Earth) that can. The programmers then embark on a further, ultimately futile, ten-million-year program to discover The Ultimate Question, a process that is hindered after eight million years by the unexpected arrival on Earth of the Golgafrinchans and then ruined completely, five minutes before completion, when the Earth is destroyed by the Vogons, to make way for a new Hyperspace Bypass.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein:

Answers without their related questions are useless. Real knowledge is built from the question and their answers; and answers generate new questions.

At the end of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein stated :

For an answer that we cannot pronounce, we cannot pronounce the question either.

For more details on the number 42 please go here.

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