Strange Science: The Question for 42?

If you’re familiar with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then you know that 42 is “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.” But the computer that provides this answer can’t also provide the question.

Mathematicians, however, working on the question of “can each of the natural numbers below 100 be expressed as the sum of three cubes?” have finally found the numbers that fit into the equation resulting in the answer of 42, with the help of a supercomputer.

While other numbers were more easily calculated, 33 and 42 were the outliers. After 33 was solved, 42 was the only remaining natural number below 100 that had not been solved. Perhaps it’s just coincidence that Douglas Adams chose 42 as the ultimate answer, or perhaps he was aware of this problem. Either way, it’s nice to finally have A question for which the answer is 42 that is more complicated than “what’s six times nine?” (which is 54, not 42).

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