“The number is unimportant, it’s the effect of the joke that matters. Everyone who hears that joke understands it, while at the same time not having a clue what it means. Because that is the joke, it’s about understanding, or the lack thereof. What the number 42 really represents is the inability of the human race to ever truly understand the “Answer” or even really formulate “The Great Question” if there ever was to be just one. What Adams does is deliver that nonunderstanding in way that can be immediately processed and remarked upon. The Great Question is never explicitly stated either, which makes perfect sense in this context as well. It is very easy to talk about the existence of a Great Question, the answer to which contains understanding of Life, the Universe, and Everything, but it is nigh impossible to formulate such a question or even suggest what it might be without sounding silly. Humanity is capable of amazing feats of intelligence, but we probably don’t posess the intellectual chops to distill the universe down to a single question, nor to interpret the “infinte majesty” of the answer even if it were so simple as “42″.”
SmokeDawgTheJanitor comments on TIL that Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhikers Guide…” series, only told one other person his secret for choosing the number “42″ as the “Ultimate Answer.” That other person is Stephen Fry, who says he’ll take that secret to the grave..