Tag Archives: Douglas Adam

Don’t panic


Many years ago I was on a panel reviewing  a scientific paper for publication. We concluded that one of the calculations in the paper was really superfluous. But it amused us because the calculation produced the answer 42!

Our recommendation to the author was that the calculation be removed – “despite the theological significance of the result!”

The number 42 seems to have a strong place in our culture – at least in the English-speaking world. And it’s all down to Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (If you don’t understand my point about the number 42 – read the book).

To mark what would have been Adams’s 61st birthday there have been a number of articles scattered through the scientific corners of the internet and blogosphere of late. I am a bit behind, but here’ a nice video in which Douglas Adams describes something of his life and attitudes

Big Thinkers – Douglas Adams [Author] – YouTube.

Another source of Douglas Adams’s wisdom are the many quotes he left. Some of these (quite a few actually) are collected at Goodreads.

Here’s one of them:


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Getting the Book Invented

So, Douglas Adams was talking about eBooks way back in 1993.

Getting the Book Invented…

This hilarious animation was prepared for a competition run by The Literary Platform. The goal was to design motion graphics to accompany a prophetic recording by Douglas Adams from 1993, in which the great writer was detailing the invention of the electronic book.

via ebookfriendly:  Getting the book invented properly

New bird designed!


An early blueprint for the new bird species

I have always found arguments from analogy very weak. Especially as they are usually allied with strong preconceived beliefs and amount to nothing more than attempts to “prove” those beliefs.

Typical is the “argument from design” for the “proof” of existence of gods. You know – Rev. Paley and his discovery of a watch on the heath? It’s amazing how many of the anti-scientific arguments used by today’s creationists follow the same lines.

A huge elephant in the creationist design room is their comparison of living forms with inanimate manufactured objects. “A watch has a watchmaker therefore an animal must also have a designer/maker.” Similarly the current intelligent design (ID) proponents who insist that a biological cell is an intricate machine – hence it must have a designer/creator. This approach is so inappropriately mechanical. One could never come to understand living forms, or their origins, by insisting on treating them like inanimate machines or objects.

Of course the design argument does raise the question of how and where this design, and the inevitable creation, of live animals occurs (or occured) and where the animals are (were) manufactured. You can’t have it both ways – claim “design” and “creation” and then just ignore those events.

But the approach does provide some humour. Remember the manufacturing plant for planets in Douglas Adams‘ “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy“? Now the satirical web site The Onion has a spoof on God’s creation of a new bird species. Dressed up like the reporting of a new model of car (see God Introduces New Bird ).

Have a look at the article – here is a short extract from the advertising blurb for this new bird:

“Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, prepare thine eyes for the most exciting line of avian wildlife in millennia,” God announced as He released an estimated 14 million first-run models into the important bird markets of North America, Australia, and Eurasia. “This new bird has it all: slicker wings, a more streamlined beak, better-than-ever capacity for beautiful song. Plus, all of the grace and majesty you’ve come to expect from the Eternal Creator of Life Itself.”

“The bird is back,” God continued, His booming voice parting the very heavens. “And baby, it’s never looked better.”


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