42—Life, The Universe, and Everything

“In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the computer Deep Thought takes 7.5 million years to work out the Answer to the Ultimate Questions of Life, the Universe and Everything is ‘42’—even if in the process the question had been forgotten. It is an answer that must disconcert Japanese readers, for 42 in Japan is like 49 in Chinese: when pronounced ‘four’ and ‘two,’ it sounds horribly similar to ‘unto death.’”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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