The Restaurant at the end of the universe

The Restaurant at the end of the universe

For seven and a half million years, Deep Thought computed and calculated, and in the end announced that the answer was in fact Forty-two — and so another, even bigger, computer had to be built to find out what the actual question was. And this computer, which was called the Earth, was so large that it was frequently mistaken for a planet — especially by the strange ape-like beings who roamed its surface, totally unaware that they were simply part of a gigantic computer program.

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In fact to see anything much uglier than a Vogon ship you would have to go inside and look at a Vogon. If you are wise, however, this is precisely what you will avoid doing because the average Vogon will not think twice before doing something so pointlessly hideous to you that you will wish you had never been born — or (if you are a clearer minded thinker) that the Vogon had never been born.

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He told the Nutri-Matic about India, he told it about China, he told it about Ceylon. He told it about broad leaves drying in the sun. He told it about silver teapots. He told it about summer afternoons on the lawn. He told it about putting in the milk before the tea so it wouldn't get scalded. He even told it (briefly) about the history of the East India Company. "So that's it, is it?" said the Nutri-Matic when he had finished. "Yes," said Arthur, "that is what I want." "You want the taste of dried leaves boiled in water?" "Er, yes. With milk." "Squirted out of a cow?" "Well, in a manner of speaking I suppose ..." "I'm going to need some help with this one," said the machine tersely. All the cheerful burbling had dropped out of its voice and it now meant business. "Well, anything I can do," said Arthur. "You've done quite enough," the Nutri-Matic informed him. It summoned up the ship's computer. "Hi there!" said the ship's computer. The Nutri-Matic explained about tea to the ship's computer. The computer boggled, linked logic circuits with the Nutri-Matic and together they lapsed into a grim silence. Arthur watched and waited for a while, but nothing further happened. He thumped it, but still nothing happened. Eventually he gave up and wandered up to the bridge.

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The only light on the bridge came from two dim red triangles in a far corner where Marvin the Paranoid Android sat slumped, ignoring all and ignored by all, in a private and rather unpleasant world of his own.

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"When you are tired of Ursa Minor Beta you are tired of life", the suicide rate quadrupled overnight.

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The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and confusing Universe, for though it cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does at least make the reassuring claim, that where it is inaccurate it is at least definitely inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it's always reality that's got it wrong. This was the gist of the notice. It said "The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate." This has led to some interesting consequences. For instance, when the Editors of the Guide were sued by the families of those who had died as a result of taking the entry on the planet Traal literally (it said "Ravenous Bugblatter beasts often make a very good meal for visiting tourists" instead of "Ravenous Bugblatter beasts often make a very good meal of visiting tourists") they claimed that the first version of the sentence was the more aesthetically pleasing, summoned a qualified poet to testify under oath that beauty was truth, truth beauty and hoped thereby to prove that the guilty party was Life itself for failing to be either beautiful or true.

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"It doesn't want to go up," said Marvin simply, "I think it's afraid." "Afraid?" cried Zaphod, "Of what? Heights? An elevator that's afraid of heights?" "No," said the elevator miserably, "of the future ..."

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"Just think," urged Marvin, "they left me, an ordinary, menial robot, to stop you, a gigantic heavy-duty battle machine, whilst they ran off to save themselves. What do you think they would leave me with?" "Oooh, er," muttered the machine in alarm, "something pretty damn devastating I should expect." "Expect!" said Marvin, "oh yes, expect. I'll tell you what they gave me to protect myself with shall [email protected]" "Yes, alright," said the battle machine, bracing itself. "Nothing," said Marvin. There was a dangerous pause. "Nothing?" roared the battle machine. "Nothing at all," intoned Marvin dismally, "not an electronic sausage." The machine heaved about with fury. "Well, doesn't that just take the biscuit!" it roared, "Nothing, eh? Just don't think, do they?" "And me," said Marvin in a soft low voice, "with this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side." "Makes you spit, doesn't it?" "Yes," agreed Marvin with feeling. "Hell that makes me angry," bellowed the machine, "think I'll smash that wall down!" The electron ram stabbed out another searing blaze of light and took out the wall next to the machine. "How do you think I feel?" said Marvin bitterly. "Just ran off and left you, did they?" the machine thundered. "Yes," said Marvin. "I think I'll shoot down their bloody ceiling as well!" raged the tank. It took out the ceiling of the bridge. "That's very impressive," murmured Marvin. "You ain't seeing nothing yet," promised the machine, "I can take out this floor too, no trouble!" It took out the floor, too. "Hell's bells!" the machine roared as it plummeted fifteen storeys and smashed itself to bits on the ground below. "What a depressingly stupid machine," said Marvin and trudged

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"Listen!" said Roosta urgently, "you can kill a man, destroy his body, break his spirit, but only the Total Perspective Vortex can annihilate a man's soul! The treatment lasts seconds, but the effect lasts the rest of your life!"

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A large dairy animal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox's table, a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with large watery eyes, small horns and what might almost have been an ingratiating smile on its lips. "Good evening," it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches, "I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in parts of my body?" It harrumphed and gurgled a bit, wriggled its hind quarters into a more comfortable position and gazed peacefully at them. Its gaze was met by looks of startled bewilderment from Arthur and Trillian, a resigned shrug from Ford Prefect and naked hunger from Zaphod Beeblebrox. "Something off the shoulder perhaps?" suggested the animal, "Braised in a white wine sauce?" "Er, your shoulder?" said Arthur in a horrified whisper. "But naturally my shoulder, sir," mooed the animal contentedly, "nobody else's is mine to offer." Zaphod leapt to his feet and started prodding and feeling the animal's shoulder appreciatively. "Or the rump is very good," murmured the animal. "I've been exercising it and eating plenty of grain, so there's a lot of good meat there." It gave a mellow grunt, gurgled again and started to chew the cud. It swallowed the cud again. "Or a casserole of me perhaps?" it added. "You mean this animal actually wants us to eat it?" whispered Trillian to Ford. "Me?" said Ford, with a glazed look in his eyes, "I don't mean anything." "That's absolutely horrible," exclaimed Arthur, "the most revolting thing I've ever heard." "What's the problem Earthman?" said Zaphod, now transferring his attention to the animal's enormous rump. "I just don't want to eat an animal that's standing here inviting me to," said Arthur, "it's heartless." "Better than eating an animal that doesn't want to be eaten," said Zaphod. "That's not the point," Arthur protested. Then he thought about it for a moment. "Alright," he said, "maybe it is the point. I don't care, I'm not going to think about it now. I'll just ... er ..."

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"It's marvellous though," he rattled on, "to see so many of you here tonight — no isn't it though? Yes, absolutely marvellous. Because I know that so many of you come here time and time again, which I think is really wonderful, to come and watch this final end of everything, and then return home to your own eras ... and raise families, strive for new and better societies, fight terrible wars for what you know to be right ... it really gives one hope for the future of all lifekind. Except of course," he waved at the blitzing turmoil above and around them, "that we know it hasn't got one ..."

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One of the major selling point of that wholly remarkable travel book, the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, apart from its relative cheapness and the fact that it has the words Don't Panic written in large friendly letters on its cover, is its compendious and occasionally accurate glossary.

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The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy offers this definition of the word "Infinite". Infinite: Bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some. Much bigger than that in fact, really amazingly immense, a totally stunning size, "wow, that's big", time. Infinity is just so big that by comparison, bigness itself looks really titchy. Gigantic multiplied by colossal multiplied by staggeringly huge is the sort of concept we're trying to get across here.

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The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question "How can we eat?", the second by the question "Why do we eat?" and the third by the question, "Where shall we have lunch?"

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"How are we doing?" said Arthur Dent. "Badly," said Ford Prefect. "Where are we going?" said Trillian. "I don't know," said Zaphod Beeblebrox. "Why not?" demanded Arthur Dent. "Shut up," suggested Zaphod Beeblebrox and Ford Prefect. "Basically, what you're trying to say," said Arthur Dent, ignoring this suggestion, "is that we're out of control."

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"Not me, baby. Like the mice said, it's worth a lot of money in the right quarters. And it's all locked up in that head thing of yours." "Yes but ..." "But nothing! Think about it. The Meaning of Life! We get our fingers on that we can hold every shrink in the Galaxy up to ransom, and that's worth a bundle. I owe mine a mint." Arthur took a deep breath without much enthusiasm. "Alright," he said, "but where do we start? How should I know? They say the Ultimate Answer or whatever is Forty-two, how am I supposed to know what the question is? It could be anything. I mean, what's six times seven?" Zaphod looked at him hard for a moment. Then his eyes blazed with excitement. "Forty-two!" he cried. Arthur wiped his palm across his forehead. "Yes," he said patiently," I know that." Zaphod's faces fell. "I'm just saying that the question could be anything at all," said Arthur, "and I don't see how I am meant to know."

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"So this is it," said Arthur, "we're going to die." "I wish you'd stop saying that," said Ford. It is worth repeating at this point the theories that Ford had come up with, on his first encounter with human beings, to account for their peculiar habit of continually stating and restating the very very obvious, as it 'It's a nice day," or "You're very tall," or "So this is it, we're going to die." His first theory was that if human beings didn't keep exercising their lips, their mouths probably seized

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After a few months of observation he had come up with a second theory, which was this — "If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, their brains start working."

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In fact, this second theory is more literally true of the Belcebron people of Kakrafoon. The Belcebron people used to cause great resentment and insecurity amongst neighboring races by being one of the most enlightened, accomplished, and above all quiet civilizations in the Galaxy. As a punishment for this behaviour, which was held to be offensively self righteous and provocative, a Galactic Tribunal inflicted on them that most cruel of all social diseases, telepathy. Consequently, in order to prevent themselves broadcasting every slightest thought that crossed their minds to anyone within a five mile radius, they now have to talk very loudly and continuously about the weather, their little aches and pains, the match this afternoon and what a noisy place Kakrafoon had suddenly become.

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"Ah, well that's a little difficult you see," said the Captain, "because our trajectory thingy was preset before we left Golgafrincham, I think partly because I'm not very good with figures ..." "You mean we're stuck here on this ship?" exclaimed Ford suddenly losing patience with the whole charade, "When are you meant to be reaching this planet you're meant to be colonizing?" "Oh, we're nearly there I think," said the Captain, "any second now. It's probably time I was getting out of this bath in fact. Oh, I don't know though, why stop just when I'm enjoying it?" "So we're actually going to land in a minute?" "Well not so much land, in fact, not actually land as such, no ... er ..." "What are you talking about?" said Ford sharply. "Well," said the Captain, picking his way through the words carefully, "I think as far as I can remember we were programmed to crash on it." "Crash?" shouted Ford and Arthur. "Er, yes," said the Captain, "yes, it's all part of the plan I think. There was a terribly good reason for it which I can't quite remember at the moment. It was something to with ... er ..." Ford exploded. "You're a load of useless bloody loonies!" he shouted. "Ah yes, that was it," beamed the Captain, "that was the

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The ruler of the Universe thought for a long while whilst Zarniwoop quivered with anger. "You're very sure of your facts," he said at last, "I couldn't trust the thinking of a man who takes the Universe — if there is one — for granted."

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"I only decide about my Universe," continued the man quietly. "My Universe is my eyes and my ears. Anything else is hearsay."

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The ruler of the Universe dozed lightly in his chair. After a while he played with the pencil and the paper again and was delighted when he discovered how to make a mark with the one on the other. Various noises continued outside, but he didn't know whether they were real or not. He then talked to his table for a week to see how it would react.

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