The mice told Slartibartfast that the new Earth would not be needed after all (“perhaps he might like to take a short skiing holiday” before the glaciers were dismantled). Presumably they changed their mind after the last two survivors of Earth 1 escaped as the police were after them.
The computer program to find the ultimate question was to run for some time and we never found out quite what it was (what do you get if you multiply six by nine?). However, our heroes travelled to the Restaurant at the end of the Universe and discussed the issue of the question over dinner. By then the question must have been discovered as Earth 2 would have long since calculated it. Why didn’t they just ask one of the other diners, or even the waiter, what the question was?
When Ford and Arthur travelled back in time and landed on stone age Earth they met the Golgafrinchan hair dressers and telephone sanitizers The Golgafrinchans had decided to use the leaf as legal tender and had consequently all become immensely rich. Their solution to rampant inflation was to burn down all the forests.
But shortly before that, Ford had spoken to a rather nice young marketing executive who had admitted they hadn’t even discovered fire yet (but they had invented a hexagonal wheel). They were debating over nasally fitted fire if I remember correctly. So how were they burning the forests if they hadn’t discovered fire yet?
The mice didn’t go back to the Earth Mark 2 project, (though the dolphins might have picked it up at a discount, that’s somewhat unclear.) They decided to go back to their dimensional reality with a question that sounded good and didn’t mean anything at all. Plus GuanoLad’s answer. If anybody at Milliways actually came from the end of time and had all the answers, they wouldn’t have said anything that could disrupt their own history.
The Golgafrinchans hadn’t invented anything that they could make themselves which would start a fire, thus I think it’s fair to admit that they hadn’t “discovered fire.” Number Two still had his Kill-o-zap gun, maybe a few others did too, and it still had some charge. If you Kill-o-zap something nice and flammable like a pile of dry leaves, you start a fire. But that was a limited resource, and presumably the captain was too genial to ask that it be used to heat his bathwater.
My interpretation would be that they of course knew what fire was from their previous civilisation on their home planet, but hadn’t yet worked out how to actually produce it. So it’s perfectly possible that they planned to burn down all the forests in order to solve inflation, but didn’t actually have the means to do so. That would actually fit quite nicely with their general air of incompetence.
It’s sort of like how Arthur, in ‘Mostly Harmless’, says that when he arrived on Lamuella (which was pretty much stone age in its technological development), he should have been able to help them because he came from a relatively advanced civilisation. But he couldn’t actually make anything like a toaster or an artesian well, he just didn’t know how. He couldn’t even begin.
In the radio show, Ford notes the burning trees as one of his last lines of the Primary Phase. It’s been too long since I read the book to know if it’s in there as well. It’s a bit of a shame, because I really do like Dead Cat’s theory.
As for the mice and Earth Mk II, them settling on “how many roads must a man walk down?” before abandoning the project and leaving only happened in the book, not the show.
As for the question: it’s mentioned a few times that the answer and question can’t both be known in any given universe, or it will disappear and be replaced with something even more bizarrely inexplicable. Presumably, this would prevent the collective diners at Milliways from knowing both parts as well. I never thought about it before, but perhaps the end of the universe witnessed at Milliways is occurring because someone, somewhere has just learned the question and answer. Probably not, though, since there’s strong suggestions that the last stars are burning out and the universe has exhausted all its energy.
The Question AND the Answer could not both be known. There’s evidence of a higher power (Zarquon), so presumably that higher power would work to prevent that from happening in the interest of self-preservation. Although I like oft wears hats’ idea of the universe ending because of this.
The book mentions Number Two using his Kill-O-Zap gun to start mowing down nearby trees as Arthur and Ford walk away from the Golgafrinchian’s meeting. I have interpreted it as the Golgafrinchian’s were so stupid that they’d keep researching fire even as entire forests were burned down, just because that was their job. I mean, there’s research, marketing, and development. The actual product is just one aspect of it. I mean, sure you have the fire, but what are people’s expectations from their fire? A burning forest has little in common with nasally fitted fire. What is the core demographic? How can we market a higher quality fire for people with more leaves? “How to make fire” is just the first step of many, really.
Milliway’s was built on the remains of Frogstar 5(?) (home of the Shoe Event Horizon and Total Perspective Vortex) not Magrathea, although since history is all Belgiumed up thanks to time travel Earth 2 could have been built at any time in time.
I always wondered about the people in the stranded spaceship. I always hoped they eventually got their shipment of napkins and were able to get outta there.
Yes. On the other hand, we get into interesting questions when we bring time travel into it. Could somebody travel back in time from the end of the universe with the question (and the answer?) Or would the same force that destroyed the universe follow them up-timeline, as it were?
The stranded spaceship and the long awaited delivery of lemon soaked paper napkins happened in Zarniwoop’s electronically synthesized universe didn’t it? The one where Zaphod survived the Total Perspective Vortex? Maybe in reality they didn’t have to wait so long (hope so)…
No, the synthesized universe is identical to the real one, except for the color of the frogstar fighters and Zaphod’s ability to survive the TPV. Zarniwoop pops them out of the electronically synthesized universe right outside the stranded spaceship, and the scene is exactly as before, so the stranded spaceship is still there in reality.
Ah yes, you’re right - though it’s just a throwaway line I think, which is probably why I hadn’t realised its significance before. That’s one of the many reasons why it’s my favourite book of all time - on each re-reading, I usually discover a joke I simply hadn’t noticed before. Time to read it again, I think.