This might be a long way to go to reference the band Level 42, but I’ll do it anyway.

If you’re a fan of 80s alternative, you’ll know all about Level 42, the funky, highly-produced English band who had hits like this.

Their name refers to the answer to “life, the universe, and everything”–aka The Ultimate Question–as calculated by Deep Thought, a planet-sized supercomputer. Although the answer is “42,” no one knew what the question was. A problem, then.

It turns out, though, that there’s a real “42” problem. Mathematicians had worked out that each number between 1 and 100 could be expressed at the sum of three cubes, i.e. x3+y3+z3=k where K is one of the numbers from 1-100.

The equation had been solved for every number–except 42. But after some distributed computing using 500,000 home PCs all over the world (gee, a planet-sized computer) that chugged on the problem for over a million hours, we now have the answers.

  • X = -80538738812075974
  • Y = 80435758145817515
  • Z = 12602123297335631

That’s it. I’ll leave you alone now. But if you want to get into some wonderfully nerdy math, go here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38346 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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