The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Study Guide

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Course Hero. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 26 Sep. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/>.

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Course Hero. (2016, November 28). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 26, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/

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Course Hero. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed September 26, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/.

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Course Hero, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed September 26, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

According to the wholly remarkable book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "space is big. Really big." However, attempts to describe it further are inadequate because "the simple truth is that interstellar distances will not fit into the human imagination." The book notes that, at the speed of light, travel from the place where Earth used to be to the planet Damogran (former home of the starship Heart of Gold) takes 500,000 years. It also advises that if you hold a lungful of air, "you can survive in the total vacuum of space for about thirty seconds." Even so, considering the vastness of space, this is not likely to do much good. If stranded in space, the chances of being picked up by a passing ship are "two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand, seven hundred and nine to one against."

Coincidentally, 2276709 is also the telephone number of a flat in Islington where Arthur once went to a party, met a nice girl, and lost her to a party-crasher. While the flat and telephone have been demolished along with Earth, they are forever linked to the fact that Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect—against all odds—are rescued 29 seconds after being ejected from the Vogon spaceship.

Analysis

With another book-within-a-book entry, this chapter introduces the concept of probability factors. Probability is a type of ratio. It compares how many times an outcome can occur compared to all possible outcomes. In other words, probability can be calculated and expressed as a number. When at least two unlikely (improbable) events occur at the same time, it is a coincidence.

As the story proceeds, there will be a staggering number of coincidences that push Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent along toward some final destination. Already, in a rather improbable coincidence, Arthur's house was knocked down to make way for a bypass on the same day that Earth was destroyed for the same reason. Now it seems that the probability number for being rescued in space by a passing ship matches the phone number for a flat in Islington (a district in London where, coincidentally, Adams used to live). That this flat hosted a party where Arthur met a very nice girl who goes off with a party-crasher is another staggering coincidence. The way things are going, it suggests the very nice girl and her friend will show up later in the story.

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