The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams has the answer, and it’s 42. This is a great and fun book. I’ve never read the rest in the series, but I want to!

There are a number of theories why the answer to “life, the universe, and everything” is 42. My favorite is that’s it’s ASCII for “anything you want it to be.”

The number 42 also happens to be the ASCII code for the asterisk ‘*’ which is a wildcard character indicating any number of characters or even an empty string in programming. This could be interpreted as the answer ‘anything you want it to be’.


The real answer is far more mundane.

Douglas Adams was asked many times why he chose the number 42. Many theories were proposed… Adams rejected them all. On 3 November 1993, he gave this answer:

The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and… I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do’ I typed it out. End of story.