Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thursday in History: Not Much Happened

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a book that seems largely to be comprised of many amusing situations that don’t really lead much of anywhere. Arthur Dent tries to get the spaceship Heart of Gold’s drink replicator to make a decent cup of tea and ends up shutting down everything on board but the most vital life support functions. While trying to escape from some missiles headed for them, the crew of the Heart of Gold turns on the ship’s Improbability Engines and turns the deadly missiles into a blue whale and a bowl of petunias instead. In their exploration of an alien planet, the adventurers discover that not only was the earth designed by planet-building aliens, but the alien who engineered the architecture of the Norwegian fjords won an award for them.
It seems like a lot of nonsense, but the characters in Douglas Adams’ book actually do have a goal. It’s really the same goal that all of us have: to find the meaning of life (the universe, and everything).
If you’re up for some spoilers, I’ll tell you what happens. They eventually find a historical archive that tells them the story of how in the ancient past a computer called Deep Thought was built with one purpose. And after centuries of calculating, it achieved what it was built for; it spit out The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything: 42. The excited listeners’ hopes were dashed; what kind of an Answer was “42?!” In response to their outrage, the computer explained that it had been tasked with calculating The Answer, and its programmers had said nothing about The Question. You’ll have to read the books to discover what the characters found out about the The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
In 2007, a man in Cambridge, England launched a technology company dedicated to producing an answer engine of its own. And in 2010, William Tunstall-Pedoe’s version of Deep Thought determined the most boring day in history since 1900.
On this day in history in 1954, not much happened. A general election was held in Belgium. An athlete died, and only one interesting person was born. That’s not to say that nothing went on that day, but there wasn’t anything really noteworthy: no explosions, no natural disasters, no declarations of war.
“The irony is, though, that - having done the calculation - the day is interesting for being exceptionally boring,” The Telegraph reported. Seizing the opportunity, they went on to publish an additional article: “Abdullah Atalar: scientist is most notable person born on most boring day in history.”
The best thing about tablet PCs is that
we can turn them into our own copy of
Every day in history is special in its own way. It doesn’t matter if you’re an infant learning to roll over for the first time or a computer programmer trying to find a more efficient way of searching for things on the internet. Or even if you happen to be an unwilling space adventurer getting trapped on a shiny spaceship that’s stuck on autopilot and headed for the center of a nearby star.
In any of those situations, what's important is that you don’t panic.

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