I’ve recently re-read the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. I’d like to put my posts for these books in the correct order but, as fate would have it, was on book 5 by the time I decided to start this blog. So I’m starting with the last book and working backwards (with some other books in between, I’m sure).
I’m on a bit of a Douglas Adams kick, so expect to see a post on The Salmon of Doubt, which I’m reading right now (and, incidentally, I highly recommend), in addition the rest of the trilogy.
The book opens with the following written on the first 4 pages:
- Anything that happens, happens
- Anything that, in happening, causes something to happen, causes something to happen.
- Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen, happens again
- It doesn’t necessarily do it in chronological order.
I found this fairly amusing. Shortly after reading Mostly Harmless, I started reading The Salmon of Doubt, in which Adams talks about this (so expect to hear more about it in that posting, whenever I get around to it).
- “Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own laws.” (p. 9)
- On New York (but which can equally apply to Toronto: “In the wintertime the temperature falls below the legal minimum, or rather it would do if anybody had the common sense to set a legal minimum” (p. 15)
- “A lot of inhabitants of New York will honk on mightly abuot the pleasures of spring, but if they actually knew anything about the pleasures of spring they would know of at least five thousand nine hundred and eighty three better places to spend it than New York, and that’s just on the same latitude” (p.16)
- “… matter consists almost entirely of nothing at all. The chances of a neutrino actually hitting something as it travels through all this howling emptiness are roughly comparable to that of dropping a ball bearing at random from a cruising 747 and hitting, say, an egg sandwich.” (p. 36) – I love physics.
- “Ford had his own code of ethics. It wasn’t much of one, but it was his and he stuck by it, more or less. One rule he made was never to buy his own drinks. He wasn’t sure if that counted as an ethic, but you have to go with what you’ve got.” (p. 68)
- “The frightening thing about the Vogons was their absolute mindless determination to do whatever mindless thing it was they were determined to do. There was never any point in trying to appeal to their reason because they didn’t have any. However, if you keep your nerve you could sometimes exploit their blinkered, bludgeoning insistence on being bludgeoning and blinkered.” (p. 131) – after reading The Salmon of Doubt, specifically the interview in which Douglas Adams speaks of his “radical atheism,” I’d hazard a guess that he’s making a veiled reference to religious zealots here.
- “In the spirit of scientific enquiry he hurled himself out of the window again.” (pp. 133)
- “Now logic is a wonderful thing but it has, as the processes of evolution discovered, certain drawbacks. Anything that thinks logically can be fooled by something else which thinks at least as logically as it does. The easiest way to fool a completely logical robot is to feed it the same stimulus sequence oyer and over again so it gets locked in a loop. This was best demonstrated by the famous Herring Sandwich experiments conducted millennia ago at MISPWOSO (The Maximegalon Institute of Slowly and Painfully Working Out the Surprisingly Obvious). A robot was programmed to believe that it liked herring sandwiches. This was actually the most difficult part of the whole experiment. Once the robot had been programmed to believe that it liked herring sandwiches, a herring sandwich was placed in front of it. Whereupon the robot thought to itself, ‘Ah! A herring sandwich! I like herring sandwiches.’ It would” then bend over and scoop up the herring sandwich in its herring sandwich scoop, and then straighten up again. Unfortunately for the robot, it was fashioned in such a way that the action of straightening up caused the herring sandwich to slip straight back off its herring sandwich scoop and fall on to the floor in front of the robot. Whereupon the robot thought to itself, ‘Ah! A herring sandwich. . .’ etc., and repeated the same action over and over and over again. The only thing that prevented the herring sandwich from getting bored with the whole damn business and crawling off in search of other ways of passing the time was that the herring sandwich, being just a bit of dead fish between a couple of slices of bread, was marginally less alert to what was going on than was the robot. The scientists at the Institute thus discovered the driving force behind all change, development and innovation in life, which was this: herring sandwiches. They published a paper to this effect, which was widely criticized as being extremely stupid. ” (pp. 51-52)