The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Study Guide

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Course Hero. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed December 10, 2018.


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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Chapter 10 | Summary



The Infinite Improbability Drive is a newly invented mode of space travel. It allows a ship to generate infinite improbability fields, enabling it to travel through the Universe very quickly. It also causes wildly improbable things to happen along the way.

It was discovered by accident, as might be expected, after scientists had decided such a device was virtually impossible. A student who had been left to sweep up the lab after a party thought it might make sense to figure out just how improbable the creation of such a device would be and feed that number into the Finite Improbability Generator—the Bambleweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain. Then give it a fresh cup of hot tea, turn it on, and see what happens. Incredibly, it worked. He instantly created the golden Infinite Improbability Generator!

He was awarded the Galactic Institute's Prize for Extreme Cleverness but, soon after, was lynched by a mob of respectable physicists who really hated to be outsmarted.


Told in flashback, this chapter explains the surprising origins of the Infinite Improbability Drive that powers the starship Heart of Gold. It also introduces the importance of a cup of tea. The British are known for prizing a good cup of tea. More than a beverage, tea is considered a small meal or a time of day. Enjoyed by children and adults, tea is the United Kingdom's national drink. It's no wonder that it plays a pivotal role in the world of scientific discovery in The Hitchhiker's Guide.

Adams also directs a bit of satire at the scientific community. Though building new knowledge is a cornerstone of science, the respectable physicists on the Galactic Government's research team cannot tolerate new knowledge coming from an outsider. While they celebrate the discovery of the Infinite Improbability Generator, they despise its amateur inventor and soon destroy him. In this way, they prefer the protection of their status as experts over the advancement of knowledge in their field. They are petty intellectuals and not the only ones that Adams lampoons in the novel.

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