As revealed in the *Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy*, which was gifted to us by the late, great Douglas Adams, the number 42 is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.” This was calculated by an enormous supercomputer named Deep Thought over a period of 7.5 million years.

Unfortunately, no one knows what the question is. Thus, to calculate the Ultimate Question, a special computer the size of a small planet was built from organic components. This new computer was called “Earth.”

As fate would have it, 42 turns out to be special in various ways. In addition to being the only natural number that succeeds 41 and precedes 43 (think about it), 42 is a *pronic* number (it’s the product of two consecutive integers, 6 * 7), a *sphenic* number (it’s a positive integer that’s the product of three distinct prime numbers, 2 * 3 * 7), and it’s an *abundant* number (the sum of its proper divisors is greater than itself; i.e., 1 + 2 + 3 + 6 + 7 + 14 + 21 = 54).

Furthermore, following from an email sent by my chum Jay Dowling, I just discovered that 42 was the last remaining number below 100 that could not be expressed as the sum of three cubes (barring numbers for which this is known to be impossible); that is, until now.

As we learn in this video from Numberphile, some folks who don’t get out as often as they should started a computer search in 1954 looking for numbers up to 100 to see which ones could be represented as the sum of three cubes (and they say academics don’t know how to have fun).

It wasn’t until this year, 2019, following 65 years of numerical exploration, that they managed to track the last one down, and — wouldn’t you know it — this little scamp was 42.

Oh no! Now I’m thinking of *The 43 Peculiarity*, which was the eighth episode of the sixth season of *The Big Bang Theory*. This was the one where Howard and Raj follow Sheldon to a locked room in the basement of the university where they work. After Sheldon has left, they pick the lock and enter the room, only to discover that it’s empty apart from a whiteboard bearing the number 43. They try to decipher the meaning behind this number in this video snippet. Later, Sheldon discovers what they are up to and convinces them that he’s created a wormhole generator and — as seen in this video morsel — the number 43 reflects the number of parallel universes he’s explored. Finally, all is revealed in this video fragment. But we digress…

As interesting as the number 42 undoubtedly is, in *The Alien Parasite Hypothesis*, which was the tenth episode of the fourth season of *The Big Bang Theory*, Sheldon explains that, “The best number is 73. Why? 73 is the 21st prime number. Its mirror, 37, is the 12th, and its mirror, 21, is the product of multiplying 7 and 3.”

Leonard isn’t impressed, saying, “We get it, 73 is the Chuck Norris of numbers!” To which Sheldon responds, “Chuck Norris wishes. In binary 73 is a palindrome, 1001001, which backwards is 1001001. All Chuck Norris backwards gets you is Sirron Kcuhc!”‘

Truth really is stranger than fiction because — although this all started out as a sitcom script — it ended up as a mathematical paper titled “The Sheldon Conjecture,” as we discover in this video.

Published in 2015, this conjecture was that 73 is the only Sheldon Prime — that is, the only prime number with the product and mirror properties. Once again, it wasn’t until this year, 2019, that the paper “Proof of the Sheldon Conjecture” appeared in *American Mathematical Monthly*.

I bet you are wondering what the point of all this is. I’m sorry; there is no point. The best rational I can come up with for this column is that it’s been a long week and I can hear a cold beer calling my name, “Max, Max, where are you?” To which I can only reply, “Don’t worry little one, daddy will be home soon!” How about you? Do you have any number-related trivia you’d care to share?

Can’t remember Pi?? Easy. Write down the first three odd numbers twice each:

113355

move the last 3 over the first three

355

—-

113

and bingo, you get

3.1415929203539823008849557522124

The real Pi is

3.1415926535897932384626433832795

So it only differs in the 7th decimal place, and is

0.99999991508632855196134845721291 % accurate.

OOPS..that should be

99.999991508632855196134845721291 % accurate.

Why do you only notice these things after the edit link expires….

I need more coffee…or maybe one of Max’s beers…..

One of my beers??? You keep your hands where I can see them!!!

There’s an edit link? Even though I have registered on the site, it seems Max has to approve every post. I have yet to see anywhere that I can edit my post once I have hit Post.

I will check now…

OK. Now I see it, but there appears to be no way to delete the post other than to post a blank one.

Hmmm — I see an “Edit” link next to the “Reply” link under my comments — but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m an administrator — and you are correct that I currently have to moderate every comment — let me ask my Web guru if it’s possible to make it so I only have to moderate the first comment from each user.

As Ernest Renan (1823-1892) famously said in Souvenirs D’enfance et de Jeunesse (1887): “The simplest schoolboy is now familiar with facts for which Archimedes would have sacrificed his life.” This is the sort of nugget of trivia that will prove invaluable the next time I fall through a time warp and find myself in a weird era full of uneducated peasants (which is how I ended up here, of course).

My only adventures in this realm is when I wake at night and squint at my digital clock looking for palindromes.

I usually find them lurking under the bed (if only our stupid cats would do their job…)

How about Dunbar’s Number

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191001-dunbars-number-why-we-can-only-maintain-150-relationships

That’s interesting, but there’s more to the theory than that — I just bounced over to the link you provided to read: “[…] According to the theory, the tightest circle has just five people – loved ones. That’s followed by successive layers of 15 (good friends), 50 (friends), 150 (meaningful contacts), 500 (acquaintances) and 1500 (people you can recognise). People migrate in and out of these layers, but the idea is that space has to be carved out for any new entrants. […]” The question he raises is why these are all multiples of five…

What layer includes a “chum”?

Well, speaking for myself, in the real world, generally speaking, a “chum” would fall unto the “50 friends” (although a “good chum” might be one of your 15 good friends).

I think people actually split things into finer layers — like if you are organizing a get together — you start with your inner circle — then maybe add the next layer (if you add one person from a layer, you sort of feel obligated to add everyone from that layer) — and there are subtle graduations as you move further out from “the center”

And I wonder if you recognise faces of people you don’t actually know, like movie stars or politicians, are these included or in addition to the 1500 people you can recognise.

The sad thing is that I’m really bad at remembering names or faces — I know people who are really good at this, and I sometimes envy them, but then I look at myself in the mirror and say to myself, “How could you improve on perfection?”

42 in BCD is also pallindromic: 0100 0010 ?

Well spotted!!! I’m always amazed by the fact that there are always more tidbits of trivia and nuggets of knowledge to learn — thanks for sharing this one — I will add it to my stash 🙂