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42 (forty-two) is the natural number following 41 and preceding 43. The number has received considerable attention in popular culture because of its appearance in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the „Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything“.

In mathematics

  • Given 27 same-size cubes whose nominal values progress from 1 to 27, a 3×3×3 magic cube can be constructed such that every row, column, and corridor, and every diagonal passing through the center, comprises 3 cubes whose sum of values is 42.
  • 42 is the product of the first three terms of Sylvester’s sequence; like the first five such numbers it is also a primary pseudoperfect number.
  • It is the sum of the totient function for the first eleven integers.
  • It is a Catalan number. Consequently; 42 is the number of noncrossing partitions of a set of five elements, the number of triangulations of a heptagon, the number of rooted ordered binary trees with six leaves, the number of ways in which five pairs of nested parentheses can be arranged, etc.
  • It is the reciprocal of the sixth Bernoulli number.
  • The atomic number of molybdenum.
  • The angle in degrees for which a rainbow appears or the critical angle.

In religion

  • In Japanese culture, the number 42 is considered unlucky because the numerals when pronounced separately — „shi ni“ (four two) — sound like the phrase, „unto death“.
  • There are 42 principles of Ma’at, the Ancient Egyptian personification of physical and moral law, order, and truth. In the judgement scene described in the Egyptian and the Book of the Coming/Going Forth by Day (the Book of the Dead (which evolved from the Coffin Texts and the Pyramid Texts)), there are 42 gods and goddesses of Egypt, personifying the principles of Ma’at, who ask questions of the departed, while Thoth records the answers, and the deceased’s heart is weighed against the feather of Truth (Ma’at). These 42 correspond to the 42 Nomes (Governmental Units) of Egypt. If the departed successfully answers all 42, s/he becomes an Osiris.
  • 42 is the number with which God creates the Universe in Kabbalistic tradition. In Kabbalah, the most significant name is that of the En Sof (also known as „Ein Sof“, „Infinite“ or „Endless“), who is above the Sefirot (sometimes spelled „Sephirot“).[11] The Forty-Two-Lettered Name contains four combined names which are spelled in Hebrew letters (spelled in letters = 42 letters), which is the name of Azilut (or „Atziluth“ „Emanation“). While there are obvious links between the Forty-Two Lettered Name of the Babylonian Talmud (see further up this page) and the Kabbalah’s Forty-Two Lettered Name, they are probably not identical because of the Kabbalah’s emphasis on numbers. The Kabbalah also contains a Forty-Five Lettered Name and a Seventy-Two Lettered Name.
  • The number 42 appears in various contexts in Christianity. There are 42 generations (names) in the Gospel of Matthew’s version of the Genealogy of Jesus; it is prophesied that for 42 months the Beast will hold dominion over the Earth (Revelation 13:5); 42 men of Beth-azmaveth were counted in the census of men of Israel upon return from exile (Ezra 2:24); God sent bears to maul 42 of the small boys who mocked Elisha for his baldness (2 Kings 2:23), etc.
  • In Judaism, the number (in the Babylonian Talmud, compiled 375 AD to 499 AD) of the „Forty-Two Lettered Name“ ascribed to God. Rab (or Rabhs), a 3rd century source in the Talmud stated „The Forty-Two Lettered Name is entrusted only to him who is pious, meek, middle-aged, free from bad temper, sober, and not insistent on his rights“. [Source: Talmud Kidduschin 71a, Translated by Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein]. Maimonides felt that the original Talmudic Forty-Two Lettered Name was perhaps composed of several combined divine names [Maimonides „Moreh“]. The apparently unpronouncable Tetragrammaton provides the backdrop from the Twelve-Lettered Name and the Forty-Two Lettered Name of the Talmud.
  • In Western Hermetic sphere work 42 is the sum of the values of the ‚true‘ spheres, 3,4,5,6,7,8 & 9 each of which represent one aspect of the body of God through which we observe the world. 1 and 2 are considered modalities of existence and 10 is the completion we see from our own sphere, 11. The sum of the squares of each of these numbers make 216, or 6 x 6 x 6, the number of the beast, which is also the number of the names of God the Jews had to say once a year in the holy of holies to assure blessings from on high. The ‚beast‘ is the perfect sphere, represented in 3 dimensions by 3 bounding circles, each with 6 radii, hence 666 being the number of the beast and directly being linked to 216 and 42. This is the foundation of Western Hermetic sphere work and is echoed in Pythagoreanism.

In popular culture

  • The number 42 is in the novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is calculated by an enormous supercomputer over a period of 7.5 million years to be 42. Unfortunately no one knows what the question is. Thus, to calculate the Ultimate Question, a special computer was created, the size of a small planet, to use organic components, called „Earth“. According to the novel Mostly Harmless, 42 is the street address of Stavromula Beta. In 1994, Adams created the 42 Puzzle, a game based on the number 42.
  • Lewis Carroll made repeated use of this number in his writings. (Likewise, Adams named the episodes of the original radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy „fits“, the word Carroll used to name the chapters of The Hunting of the Snark). Examples : Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has 42 illustrations. Rule Forty-two in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland („All persons more than a mile high to leave the court“.) Rule 42 of the Code in the preface to The Hunting of the Snark („No one shall speak to the Man at the Helm.“) In „fit the first“ of The Hunting of the Snark the Baker had „forty-two boxes, all carefully packed, With his name painted clearly on each“. Alice’s recital of her „four times table“ while falling down the rabbit hole makes sense if the first calculation is made in base 18, the second in base 21, and so on, increasing the base by three each time. Continuing on this pattern 4 × 12 would equal 19 in base 39, but 4 × 13 calculated in base 42, rather than providing the expected 20 would yield 1A. Hence, as Alice cries, „I shall never get to twenty at that rate!“ The Red Queen announces her age as „one hundred and one, five years and a day“, which – if the best possible date is assumed for the action of Through the Looking-Glass – gives a total of 37,044 days. With the further (textually unjustified) assumption that both Queens were born on the same day their combined age becomes 74,088 days, which is 42 x 42 x 42. Some commentators have asserted that this is deliberate on Carroll’s part.[15]

In music

  • Level 42 is an English pop/rock music band.
  • 42“ is one of the tracks on Coldplay’s 2008 album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends.
  • Strigaskór nr. 42 is an Icelandic band.
  • 42“ is the title of a song by Philadelphia based jam/electronica band The Disco Biscuits.
  • Forty-Two“ is the title of a song from The Afters‘ 2008 album Never Going Back To OK.
  • 42“ is the title of a song by Swedish powerpop/rock band Roomie.
  • Regina Spektor sings „Sit down class, / Open up your textbooks to page 42,“ in her song, „Loveology.“

In television and film

  • In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Friar Lawrence gives Juliet a potion that allows for her to be in a death-like coma for „two and forty hours.“
  • Fox Mulder, one of the main characters in The X-Files lived in Apartment 42 at 2630 Hegal Place, Alexandria, Virginia.
  • The Kumars at No. 42 television series. In 2003, Sanjeev Bhaskar hosted a BBC show nominating The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Britain’s Best Loved Book.
  • 42 is one of The Numbers – 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42 – featured in Lost. It is also the number tied to the character „Kwon“.
  • A made for TV movie 42: Forty Two Up – an installment in a series of documentaries wherein the director revisits the same group of British-born individuals every 7 years.
  • 42 is an episode of Doctor Who, set in real time lasting approximately 42 minutes.
  • In the Doctor Who episode Voyage of the Damned, the Tenth Doctor attempts to control a rogue host robot by randomly shouting numbers, including of course, 42.
  • In an episode of the animated show Phineas and Ferb, called „The Fast & the Phineas“, the boys turn their mother’s car into a racecar. The number of their racecar is 42.
  • 42 is the name of Buzz Lightyear’s space ship from Pixar’s animated science fiction series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
  • In Monty Python’s film And Now for Something Completely Different, the famous „How Not to be Seen“ sketch is presented as „H.M. Government Public Service film No. 42„.
  • In an episode of „Stargate Atlantis“ it is revealed that Rodney Mckay’s password is made up of the birth years of several notable minds throughout history, and ends with the number 42. The character John Sheppard reveals that the number is the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything, to the confusion of his alien companion.
  • In an episode of „Stargate Atlantis,“ Season 4 – Doppelganger; Dr. McKay asks Lt. Col. Sheppard „Look, do you have any idea how many Gate addresses there are in the Ancient database that have no accompanying description?“ to which Sheppard answers „forty two„.
  • In the episode „Human“ from Stargate Universe, the key to a code appears to be the number 46. Upon seeing this, Daniel Jackson exclaims: „Well, it’s not the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. That’s forty two. Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.“
  • In „Finding Nemo“ the address of the dentist’s office is recited many times by Dory, it is P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

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