This is my 42nd post on this blog, so it seemed like it ought to be the answer to everything. I hate to disappoint. In case the title of this post wasn’t enough of a clue, I am definitely a Douglas Adams fan. And as it turns out, 42 might actually be kind of the answer to everything – it seems to be a pivotal constant in something-or-other (this is physics that is WAY beyond me – because the math is WAY beyond me – at least at this point), but it seems to be a pretty important number. So Douglas Adams was on to something. And it isn’t even in the Fibonacci sequence!
Why are numbers so fascinating? I don’t know. Maybe because they hold the key to so much. Time. Space. Relationships. Well, time and space, that’s a lot about relationships right there. I mean, music is all math. It’s all about the relationships between the notes, which are mathematical frequencies. A half-tone in a chord makes the difference between a major chord and a minor chord. The difference between triumph and sadness. In math.
Forty-two was Jackie Robinson’s number. It’s been retired all across baseball because Jackie Robinson was that important. No one in baseball had that number since it was retired. Oh – yeah, except for Mariano Rivera, perhaps the greatest closer ever. Mo took the number 42 when he joined the Yankees to honor Robinson (before the number was retired across major league baseball). Mo was allowed to keep it until he retired. This past season. So now 42 has been retired twice by the NY Yankees.
Forty-two is a multiple of seven, and seven, according to Christian tradition, is the perfect number. That’s why the number of the beast is 666. Six is close to seven, but it will never be seven.
“The Summer of ’42” was a pretty good movie.
In the “Doctor Who” episode “42”, the Doctor has 42 minutes to save a spaceship from hurtling into a star. The title is, of course, a nod to Douglas Adams, because the Doctor Who writers do stuff like that all the time. This one was subtle.
The thing is, numbers are interesting. They pop up all the time. I’m more fascinated by the Fibonacci sequence, but there’s a special place for 42.
I’m not saying we should always stop to measure everything. That would be awful. But the numbers are always there. The precise amount of electrical charge needed in a neuron to make the neuron fire, thus enabling us to move or feel. Or think. Numbers. The space between people. The space that tells us that this relationship is friendly but not intimate, but that relationship is so much closer. Numbers.
Hours in a day. Days on a calendar. Clocks that now are increasingly digital. Numbers.
Recently I said to a co-worker that I needed more hours in a day and/or more days in a week. She, also a Doctor Who fan, asked me if we’d still age at the same rate if we had more hours in a day. Well, that would be interesting. More hours in a day, but then we’d have fewer days. Those numbers would still add up the same way in the end. I think what I really want is more time. Total. That’s a whole different set of numbers.
At the most basic levels, mathematics, physics, and philosophy are all the same thing. If you move across a room, from one side to the other, do you ever occupy space on the way to the other side? Are you ever in a spot? For how long? Or are you moving? If you’re moving, how do you occupy a space? Math. Physics. Philosophy. It’s all the same thing.
It might all be there. In 42. It might. We’ll probably never know for sure.
It doesn’t matter, I guess. I’ll just keep going, and looking at the wonder of things. The world is an amazing place full of all sorts of synchronicities and fascinating relationships. Do the math. Oh, and take a towel, and – rule number one – DON’T PANIC!
That’s my mite. It’s all I’ve got.
- Galactic Hitchhiking – a tribute to Douglas Adams (wcs53.wordpress.com)