Off Topic

I think, therefore I harm


forty-two-featureDo you believe in numbers? Numerology is a study of the relationship between numbers and events, in a divine or mystical way. Despite its importance in history, numerology is not a science, and no modern mathematician would use it. Numerology is classified alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts.

I don’t believe in numerology or in any form of magic relationship with numbers, though throughout the years I often made fun at connecting numbers with some events. For example, at one point in my life, I noticed that even years (2002, 2004, 2006, …) had been significantly more serious for me, while odd years had been high, funny, creative and partying years. When I recently analyzed my more recent years, I couldn’t make such a correlation anymore.

Over the years though, I noticed one particular number for having a part in several, unrelated historical or cultural events. That number is 42. Let’s see where I noticed that number.

Lewis Carroll


Click for full image

Lewis Carroll, famous for Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, was known for his repeated use of the number 42 in his writings. For instance, in the aforementioned novel, rule 42 instated that all people of more than a mile high had to leave the court. Also, the novel had 42 illustrations.

The White Queen states her age is one hundred and one, five months and a day – 37,044 days. With the unconfirmed assumption that both queens are born the same day, their combined age is 74,088 days – 423.

The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams, was originally a comic radio show which began on the BBC in 1978. Over the years, it was adapted to other formats and eventually became an international phenomenon. The story is remembered for its famous use of the number 42.

A supercomputer calculated that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything was 42. Unfortunately, nobody knew what the question was. In order to find the question, a larger supercomputer had to be built. The new computer is built the size of a planet and made of biological components, and thus often mistaken for a planet. The computer is ultimately revealed to be the Earth, with human beings designed to find the question over time. However, to make way for a hyperspace expressway, the Earth is destroyed just five minutes before it was scheduled to produce the question.

When asked, Douglas Adams denied any special meaning to the number 42. He said that he needed a simple even number. He said that he liked that this one was divisible by both 6 and 7, as he thought he may had needed this property later as he continued the story.

This reference became a popular meme, which even Google knows.


42 is the standard runtime of a 60-minute TV show, which allows for six standard 3-minute advertisement cuts. Yes, you really get 30% of advertisement.

A 2007 Doctor Who episode was titled simply 42, to reflect this fact. In the story, the Doctor only gets 42 minutes to save the world, and the setting is meant to show real-time action.

Japanese culture

In Japanese culture, the number 42 is a symbol of misfortune, not unlike the number 13 in Western culture. As pronounced in Japanese, 42 sounds similar to to die.

Along with other numbers with a negative sound to it, 42 is avoided in car license plates, room or floor numbers, and many other places where numbers are needed.

Grand Prix of Japan

In 1963, a Grand Prix was held in Japan for the first time since the war. The event took place at the Suzuka circuit, in Nagoya, built just a year before. Suzuka is renowned for being one of the few circuits in the world to exhibit a figure 8 layout, meaning that one section of the course overlaps another through an overpass.

masao-asano-42Masao Asano was favorite, but he astonished the crowd by choosing to use number 42. Asked about the choice, he dismissed old superstitions. He took the lead during the first lap, but as he reached for the last curve, he lost control of his car and crashed into a ravine. He died from the injuries at the hospital, some three months later. A few weeks later, the use of number 42 was banned from use on any car racing in Japan.

The very next year, in 1964, was a great year. 150,000 people assisted to the competition. After the success of the previous year’s Grand Prix, new rules were enforced to make for a great event. Among the new rules, two teams of officials took position up a tower near the finish line to note the position of each car after each lap. In each team, one official was to call the numbers marked on the cars as they passed the line, while the second one would note down the numbers as they were heard. With the pace of the action, they had little time to think. At the end of the race, they would compare notes for accuracy.

The race went with not major incident. When the officials compared their notes at the end of the race, they noted no discrepancy, but noticed that a car with number 42 had been seen eight times. None of them could describe the car. Has Masao Asano returned for a last race?


9 comments on ““42”

  1. sledpress
    January 23, 2014

    I was forty-two when I asked for a divorce and hired a photographer for a series of nude muscle shots, to cheer me up.

    • Tom Duhamel
      January 23, 2014

      Oh! See, magic number!! Alright, not magic in this case…

      At some point in the future, I will be 42, too…

      • sledpress
        January 23, 2014

        Well, there it is, you have the makings of a plan!

  2. heretherebespiders
    January 23, 2014

    I’m 42 now, until August anyhow… Does that mean I’m the answer to life, the universe, and everything?

    I can’t get behind the race statistics, that’s just a goofy way of keeping track, and can’t be proven after the fact. They definitely had cameras in Japan in 1964!

    My only experience with numerology was when my boyfriend’s dad, who was heavily into it, ran our numbers and said we’d never survive as a couple. He was right – but as it was the boy who broke up with me, I’ll never know how much that reading influenced him.

    • Tom Duhamel
      January 23, 2014

      Haha I waited for you to raise the fact that you were 42! I did remember your age when I wrote it, though there were no connection.

      I get you regarding the race stats, but that was really a standard procedure back then. These races were most likely recorded, and probably broadcasted live on TV, but even today very few sports allow a video recording to be used to judge a situation or a result. Decisions must be taken very quickly and watching a video would have made an unacceptable delay. NHL (National Hockey League) only recently allowed video replay to be used by officials because someone proved that today’s technology allowed them to watch them without any delay.

      Timers (precise enough for car racing) only begun to be used in the 70s, and electronics appeared in the sports in the 80s. But officials are still present and their notes are used if electronics fail.

      That’s pretty much how I see esoteric “sciences”, such as astrology. The actual readings are nonsense to me, but they may have an impact (positive or negative) on those who believe. Not because the readings are right, but because it may influence their decisions. Why should I stay with her? The numbers say it won’t work. So the numbers were right.

      • heretherebespiders
        January 24, 2014

        Same fellow now has two kids – not something I’d ever want to do, and he excels at being a parent. So it’s all good.

  3. Weltall
    January 23, 2014

    Very interesting your article. Numerology has several number who have intessante meaning but 42 I do not know….

  4. Weltall
    January 23, 2014

    find this 42 means a time of purification as 40 too

    • Tom Duhamel
      January 23, 2014

      Je n’avais pas recherché la signification du nombre, vu que (comme je l’ai mentionné) je n’y crois pas. 42 étant divisible par 6 et 7, je présume qu’on peut rechercher le sens à partir de ces chiffres.

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