Monday, March 11, 2013

Don't Panic!

Google is making note today of what would have been the 61st birthday of English humourist and author Douglas Adams, who is most famously known for his Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy series of books.

It started out as a trilogy: Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy was followed by The Restaurant At the End of the Universe and the story mostly finished up in Life, the Universe, and Everything. Only they sold so well, he added a *fourth* book to the trilogy, titled So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. (The title references the last thing said by dolphins before they left the planet. In the Hitchhiker Earth, mankind is only the third most intelligent species, being outsmarted by both dolphins and white mice.)

In the book, a race of beings built a super-computer that would give them the answer to "life, the universe, and everything." It said it would need seven-and-a-half million years. At the appointed time, it gave the answer (which I shall refrain from spoiling for you, though most everyone I know has already heard, such is the popularity of Adams' work). So then these beings built a *second* super-computer, a living experiment of a computer, to come up with the question to life, the universe, and everything, since they could make no sense out of the answer.

That second super-computer, posits Adams, was our Earth. When the scientists who created the Earth wanted to pop in and check up on their experiment, they appeared here as white mice.

The series is quite fun; Adams has a whimsical style of writing with a keen eye for sarcasm and the human condition, and as long as you don't take a word of it for gospel, I think you'd enjoy it. Today I'm going to feature several quotes from the book for your daily chuckle. (At least I hope you'll chuckle.)


"He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which."

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
"It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase 'As pretty as an Airport' appear."
"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."

"There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened."
"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."
"Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws."

"Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job."


The story follows the trail of sad-sack human Arthur Dent and his pal, Ford Prefect, who is from Betelguese, though Arthur does not find this out until later. Arthur is our way into the author's world, and he is often as amazingly perplexed as we would be.

In the novels, there actually is something called "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and it is a travel guidebook, of sorts, with the words DON'T PANIC emblazoned on the cover. Which, I hope, explains the title of today's post.


Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761. Don't forget your towel.

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