Douglas Adams was right

The answer to life, the universe and everything really is 42.

Prof Max Tegmark, a Swedish physicist at MIT, is a leading proponent of the “multiverse” hypothesis, which states that our universe is just a tiny part of a much grander mass of parallel worlds. “It’s a bad day for multiverse sceptics, now that the smoking-gun evidence for inflation has been found,” he said yesterday. “Alex Vilenkin, Andrei Linde, Alan Guth and others have shown that inflation generically predicts a space that is not merely large but infinite, teeming with duplicate copies of our civilisation living out countless variations of our lives far, far away.”

There really is a world on which ballpoint pens can live that uniquely biroid lifestyle.

21 thoughts on “Douglas Adams was right”

  1. There seems to be a confusion between a single universe of infinite size, and multiple universes. The first of those might have every possible configuration within it (not necessarily; I can create an infinity of copies of one configuration, so maybe no biroids) but is not a multiverse. The second is a multiverse, but is not so far as I can tell what has been suggested by the discovery of primordial gravitational waves.

    Also, not gravity waves. They’re different-


  2. But then I believe in a relativistic aether, and that dark energy and dark matter are its manifestation on the cosmological scale, so I’m probably talking total cobblers.

  3. I used to wonder if there were alternate universes out there, there must be at least one where City won stuff every year and United were crap. And in fact if that, being so improbable, would actually disprove the multiverse hypothesis and everything would disappear in a puff of logic. However, it seems I’ve managed to dimension-shift to such a universe.

  4. if it starts as nothing, and there is a very short inflationary period, so it becomes something, then it does not follow that that something is infinite. In fact it follows that it is not infinite. It has definite space/time boundaries. Personally I think this is a case of “keep banging the rocks together guys”.

  5. I’ve never read HHGTTG – I tried at school all those years ago, but was more of a James Herbert/Mario Puzo man at the time. Is it any good? Has it aged well?

  6. @Alastair

    It is infinite if there is nothing into which it can expand ie that it just is, its ‘iness’ just being bigger today than yesterday.

  7. The first two, most certainly, are comic masterpieces. As is the radio show in fact. Laugh out loud jokes and constructions in there. I agree it’s not entirely to all tastes but well worth finding out if it is to your.

  8. I’m surprised everyone considers this stuff about gravitational waves and inflation to be news.

    I’m sure I saw a short blog by that polymath Richard Murphy knocked up a while ago explaining his grand unified theory of everything, reconciling relativity and quantum mechanics, proving all of this and which was inspired by the meanderings of his model trains round his home office.

  9. “duplicate copies of our civilisation living out countless variations”: maybe that makes more sense in Swedish?

    I can’t share the excitement at evidence that supports widely accepted thirty year old theories. What would be exciting would be if the evidence falsified the theories. Good Stuff ain’t the same as exciting stuff.

  10. “HHGTTG … Is it any good?” I laughed like a drain at the time. Even the telly version had its merits.

  11. If you have to work or socialise with geeks a lot, also worth a read purely for its value as a cultural decoder. The overuse of the number 42 in error codes! The hilarity of towels! Including “Earth, Western Spiral Arm of the Galaxy” in their address! The meaning of life the universe and everything!

    If you don’t grok what they are on about, then don’t panic. Read the books – the first couple anyway. This is a mostly harmless activity, a less painful or long-winded form of geek immersion than subjecting yourself to the entire Star Trek canon, or to “classic” Dr Who of the 1970s and 80s.

    You might also benefit from reacquainting yourself with Monty Python but I think they (or at least the films, plus the handful of the original sketches that anyone actually recalls) are pretty deeply permeated into British culture anyway, just better remembered in geek subculture. Many computer programmers seem to recall the scripts verbatim.

    So long and thanks for all the fish…

  12. @Alistair
    A fair definition of “infinite” would be something you can’t perceive the end of. So even when the universe was smaller than a single atom, it was still “infinite” because it’s periphery was expanding faster than it would have been possible to perceive it, from any point within it.

  13. I can’t see how inflation would lead to an infinite universe when at some point you’d reach the Shoe Event Horizon.

  14. Any universe derived from the same big bang as ours would have to have laws of physics related to ours (not exactly the same because the subsequent expansion of the universe etc might be a bit different which would change some of the laws a bit). So any biroid life form would have to have a level of complexity comparable to our carbon lifeforms and be nothing like Biro’s invention.

  15. If this is true, how can you explain Zaphod Beeblebrox’s highly profitable second hand pen business ?

  16. I discount the second-hand pen theorem. My hypothesis is pen snobs. I should know, as I am one of them. I dislike biros in general but my home and work pots, and the various pens distributed around the house (many of them tied down so they can’t be tidied away so you can’t find one when you need them) are all bic cristal. I won’t use any other biro. My colleagues marvel at the daily ritual of The Filling Of The Ornate Chinese Dragon Fountain Pens, and laugh at my frustration when they fail, mid-scribble, and get shaken all over the immaculately-pressed white Armani shirts of unsuspecting clients.

    The reason more biros are sold every month than there are people on the planet, despite the fact they last a year or more (and to this day I can’t ever remember completely emptying a bic cristal, though I’ve come close), is pure entropy. You go to a friend’s house, borrow a pen (anything will do), occasionally it ends up in your pocket. For most people, not being pen snobs, it just ends up in the general household pen circulation. Think back to the sock exchange when you were a student – you always came back with the right number of socks, but one was not yours.

    Pen snobs, however, put it in the bin the moment they come across it. It just doesn’t sit properly in the 1981 vintage Mont Blanc pen stand. Entropy. The net movement of biros is, like everything else, from a high biro concentration (most places) to a low biro concentration and those places with a low biro concentration are more likely to dispose of it.

    The only conspiracy is on the part of the cheap pen manufacturers who promote the very hatred of their products that ensures continued sales.

  17. @bloke in spain. It would be wrong to describe the universe as being smaller than a single atom – the singularity had no size. It is equally wrong to think of the expansion having a pheriphery. That would imply that the universe is expanding into something – which it is not.

  18. Has no-one noticed that the DT thinks that in just 14bn years light should have reached us from everywhere within 93bn light years of us?
    Does any journalist know what the word “light-year” means?

  19. Pingback: Peanuts to Space | ALEXJC38

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