The number 42 has many different meanings in mathematics and science. It is often considered a “magic” number due to its many uses in mathematics, science, and technology. In addition, it also has cultural significance in literature and art.
The first occurrence of 42 is in the Bible, as part of the passage about the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4). The second occurrence is in Homer’s Iliad, which refers to it as “the answer to problems”.
In mathematics and science, 42 can be used as shorthand for natural logarithm base e or for Euler’s constant γ or for Avogadro’s constant N A . This usage originates from Douglas Adams’ book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where 42 is given as the meaning of life, since it can be expressed as one over e (1/e) = 0.368…. In computer science, it represents a common programming error message “42” when attempting to open a file that does not exist.
Last modified: August 17, 2022