“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”–The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams was published on this date in 1979. Have you read it? If not, you may want to try it out — it’s super fun and a quick read.
The book is about the adventures of Englishman Arthur Dent following Earth’s destruction by aliens to make way for an intergalactic express route. The book is satirical and mocks modern society. Major themes in the book include the randomness and absurdity of life.
1. The Meaning of Life is 42
In the book, “a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7.5 million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42. Deep Thought points out that the answer seems meaningless because the beings who instructed it never knew what the question was.” Source.
2. Actual Hitchhiking Inspired the Book
“The idea for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came to Douglas Adams as he was drunkenly stargazing in a field in Innsbruck, Austria in 1971. Adams, who was poor at the time, was hitchhiking from London to Istanbul with a stolen copy of Ken Welsh’s Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe. Adams later wrote to Welsh, ‘I got frantically depressed in Innsbruck … When the stars came out I thought that someone ought to write a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because it looked a lot more attractive out there than it did around me.'”
3. Fourth All Time Favorite Book in the UK
In 2003, the BBC polled the populace in the UK about what their favorite books of all time are. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came in fourth. Here’s the top ten:
- The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
For another fun poll of Brits, check who they think is The Second Greatest Briton
4. Don’t Panic! and Space X
The title of the book is a reference to a digital guidebook given to Arthur Dent called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which has “Don’t Panic!” on the cover.
In 2018 Space X launched a Tesla Roadster into space as a dummy payload test for its Falcon Heavy rocket. In the Roadster was a mannequin in a spacesuit as well as a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the glovebox, a towel, and a sign on the dashboard that reads “DON’T PANIC!”.
5. Towels Are Massively Useful
Why did Space X also include a towel in the Roadster? It’s because towels are massively useful! Here’s what The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has to say about towels:
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini-raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face ﬂannel, soap, tin of biscuits, ﬂask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit, etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have ‘lost’. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
It was written using a traditional Mac and the MacAuthor application which was his favourite.
Thanks for all the fish!