Friday, July 06, 2007

42 : Douglas Adams Was Right

There's a bit of stretching going on in the following story to make it fit into the idea that author Douglas Adams was right when he said the answer To Life, The Universe And Everything was '42', but it's a nice and confusing attempt :
After pondering the weighty question of the mass of the Milky Way galaxy, astronomers have come up with an answer: 42.

That is, our galaxy weighs three times 10 to the power of 42kg - a number written as 3 followed by 42 zeroes, which has echoes of author Douglas Adams's fictional answer to the question of life, the universe and everything in his series Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It seems esoteric but knowing the weight of the galaxy - the amount of matter it contains - is key to solving important astronomical problems.

Of particular interest to astrophysicist Ken Freeman is the nature of so-called dark matter.

Unlike the "ordinary matter" of stars and planets, scientists have only hunches about the nature of the invisible material that, along with "dark energy", they estimate makes up 96 per cent of the universe.

While it's possible to estimate the mass of the entire universe, accurately measuring galaxies, particularly distant ones, is another matter.
It's all well and good to know how much our galaxy weighs, but it doesn't answer the real question of Life, The Universe and Everything, which was : What is the question?

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