Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Towel Day

Friday, May 25, is Towel Day. This is an annual celebration in tribute to the late author Douglas Adams (1952-2001) on which fans around the universe carry a towel in his honor. There is a website devoted to the promotion of Towel Day and lists events by country. I am proud to have an event on there under USA for this year:

The Minnesota State University-Moorhead Planetarium (Moorhead, Minnesota) is planning a special live planetarium show in the evening as a guide to the galaxy. They will look at the night sky, the Milky Way, fly past some planets, and zoom out of the Milky Way to learn about our galaxy. A Vogon Poetry contest may follow. Attendees wielding towels get 50% off admission. More info

If you are previously unaware of Douglas Adams, he wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy science-fiction comedy series. The series began as a BBC radio comedy in 1978 before developing into a series of five books, a television series, several stage plays, comics, a computer game, and in 2005 a feature film.

Also if you are previously unaware of the work, you might ask, “Why a towel?” Because

“A towel…is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble‐sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand‐to‐hand‐combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

There are many delightful quotes about the universe and humanity in the books. Here are two quick examples:

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

“One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It’s a nice day, or You’re very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you alright? At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned this one as well as being obstructively cynical.”

If you’re already a fan, then long may you know where your towel is. If you are unfamiliar with the work, Friday is a great day to check it out and give it a try over the weekend!

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