The humour is the medium

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie was a travesty. And it’s entirely because they tried to capture the humour of the series – which comes across beautifully in print and on the radio – without acknowledging the realities of the medium.

Consider that most of H2G2 is simply untranslateable to film. I mean, how on earth could you justify the following scene? (wherein Arthur debates with Prosser about the official plans to demolish his house) :

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Arthur Dent

why is Arthur such an unlikely hero? For one thing, he’s normal. Verging on dull, mundane, boring, average, forget him five minutes later normal. In that respect, Douglas Adams (DNA) made him a representative of humanity as a whole, which served two purposes. One was to allow us to relate to something, to give us an anchor point in an improbable zany universe that was so utterly and subversively insane that without Arthur’s human presence to react to it, would be essentially beyond comprehension. Why would we even care about the story if not for Arthur? The other purpose was to basically poke fun at ourselves. By making Arthur so generic, so average, and so bland, DNA distilled humanity down into a single person. And then used that person as proxy for wry satire on everything that makes us as a race so delightfully interesting. It sounds paradoxical to make a bland person the epitome of our creative natures, but there is a kind of joy in watching Arthur react as only a normal person and not some super-being – react, survive, and even thrive.

The ultimate answer

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have built up an entire mythology about the number 42, despite Douglas Adams’ (DNA) insistence that the whole thing was just a big joke. Maybe a joke in base-13, but still a joke. The number has in some ways become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that it pops up everywhere so often that one can’t help but wonder if it isn’t just fan energy driving it.

Well, as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have built up an entire mythology about the number 42, despite Douglas Adams’ (DNA) insistence that the whole thing was just a big joke. Maybe a joke in base-13, but still a joke. The number has in some ways become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that it pops up everywhere so often that one can’t help but wonder if it isn’t just fan energy driving it.

Well, as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. From Seed Magazine, an article that makes a link between the prime numbers, 42, and the moments of the Riemann zeta function. In other words, the number 42 holds the key to possibly unlocking the secret of the prime numbers themselves, and thus answering an ultimate question of the basic structure of our universe (made physically manifest in the physics of atomic energy levels of heavy elements like Erbium).

So, in a very real sense, the number 42 is the answer to an ultimate question. Whether that is the ultimate question or not is left to the working thinkers [1]. But here’s something else to think about: the zeta function is closely related to the Zipf distribution – which governs the fundamental statistics of the World Wide Web. So perhaps blogging about 42 has deeper meaning than we suspect…

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