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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has moved on considerably in recent times. The first few editions, for example, notoriously contained the following unhelpful entry:

Earth - Mostly harmless

The modern definition is much improved:

This article contains an opinion

This article or section contains instructions, advice, or how-to content.

Earth - Mostly harmless.

This article about a planet, comet or asteroid is a stub. You can help the Guide by expanding it

This Doctor Who-related article is a stub. You can help the Guide by expanding it.

Other infelicities have also been cleared up. A rather peculiar biology section, written by a bored advertising executive surfing during working hours, which claimed that

Bacteria can be divided into three major genera: the Good, the Bad and the Friendly

was removed as long ago as last week, and the following mischievous passage about a certain icon of popular culture

Early on in the development of the franchise, it was not realised what 'being 007' really meant, and the films were somewhat perfunctory in the gadgets division. In a cut scene in Dr. No, the quartermaster demonstrates the contents of the special briefcase for the master spy's journey abroad:

  • five bags of Typhoo cunningly sewn into its silk lining
  • one roll of proper soft lavatory paper disguised as a silencer for the Walther PPK
  • one jar, supposedly of napalm jelly, actually contained the secret service travel allocation of Frank Bruno's 'Oxbridge' extra rough cut marmalade.

Additionally, the Wolseley Vanden Plas Tourer, seen in the exciting parallel parking sequence, had a headrest that could easily be unscrewed and converted into a quite practical hot water bottle.

has been on the list for urgent revision for many months now.

"But Mr Matthews", said Marilyn, displaying something of the naivety that her late namesake had put into her film roles, "I thought Douglas Adams was dead."

"Pah! Silly girl!" snarled Stanley Matthews. "Did they stop making Bond books when Ian Fleming died?"

"Did Flashman's career end when Thomas Hughes kicked the bucket?" quipped Kylie Himmler.

"Um", said Marilyn.

"yeh ficko sinsce wen did bein A LIFE mttr? i hate ppl who hv no commin sence!!!!!!!!!! lol lol lol lol lol", said Marie Lloyd, youthfully.

"I for one welcome our new zombie author overlords", said Elizabeth Fry, blog reader.

"They used to buy towels", reminisced William Gladstone. He had worked in merchandising at the time of the original Hitchhiker. "Perfectly ordinary towels, with not so much as a logo transfer on them. They used to literally fly off the shelves, with a 700 per cent margin."

Emmeline, who was so mind-bogglingly old-fashioned as to dislike abuse of 'literally' in a split infinitive, felt it was time to bring the meeting back to the topic in hand. "Surely it will be hard to find a ghost writer who can replace Douglas Adams? Who will be able to do all the jokes? You know, the digital watches and dolphins?"

"Actually, Emmy, darling, there's no problemo to the power of infinity minus one, as it were. Little Stanley has done the maths. If you will just feast your peepers on this..." Stanley flipped a flip chart to reveal a bar graph.

Bar chart showing word counts in Wikiquote for each of the books in the Hitchiker trilogy

"This chart shows the number of words quoted from each successive volume of the Hitchhiker sequence in Wikiquote. So there are about 2600 words quoted from Hitchhiker's Guide, 1500 from Restaurant, 970 from Life, and so on."

"wossa mttr wit U??????????? u sm kinda fckin G.E.E.E.E.E.E.K. or wot?????" demanded Marie impatiently.

"Bear with me, as the overly hirsute comedian said to the satanic slut. Wikiquote is a fairly objective way of measuring the level of humour in a book. The funnier the book, broadly speaking, the more jokes get quoted from it. This methodology shows that the Hitchhiker series suffered severe ECD - Exponential Comedic Decay. Each book is about two thirds as funny as its predecessor..."

<p"...or each joke has a half life of about 2.5 books, if you take lambda to be about 0.4", said Emmeline, who had been doing some quick calculations on her Palm. "So this means that our new book - "

"And Another Thing", said Stanley.

"And Another Thing need only contain 370 quotable words to remain true to the spirit of Douglas Adams. That should certainly make it easier to write. I'm sure we can find some schmuck of an author to knock that out." Despite herself, and a slight pricking of conscience, Emmeline was impressed by the power of mathematics. "And if by any chance we decided to do another one after that - "

"I Think You Ought To Know I'm Feeling Very Depressed", said Stanley.

"I Think You Ought To Know I'm Feeling Very Depressed need only have about 250... Wait a moment", said Emmeline, realisation dawning upon her. 'Just how many books do you plan to publish in this 'trilogy'?"

Even for a naturally smug man, Stanley radiated alarming levels of smugness.

'I thought "42" had a certain ring to it', he said.®

The Power of One Infographic

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