Mostly Harmless: Three Douglas Adams Inventions We Wish Were Real

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This might not be in most people’s top 10 lists when it comes to beloved Adams inventions, but it’s one part of the books that has most stuck with me over the years. Of course, mankind has already mastered flight, you might argue. And indeed, we’ve been scuttling around the sky in airplanes and helicopters and hot-air balloons and wingsuits and whatever else for over a century. But here I’m speaking about non-assisted flight — more Superman, less Rocketeer. In typically squiggly Adams logic, there isn’t some arcane mystical trick to flying — all you have to do is throw yourself at the ground and miss. “Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, that presents the difficulties,” says the Guide, demonstrating its knack for understatement. You can’t be consciously thinking about trying to fly or it won’t work, so you have to basically trip and/or fall and be distracted by something at the last minute that takes your mind off your impending splat. It makes absolutely no sense, but it also makes perfect sense. I’m still hoping I’ll pull this one off at some point, but preferably just while tripping walking down the sidewalk rather than, say, being thrown out of zeppelin.

The Guide says:

If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination), or a bomb going off in your vicinity, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above the ground in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.

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  1. Gardner Underhill says:

    You missed the SEP (Somebody Else’s Problem) field generator. It makes anything within the field somebody else’s problem and therefore completely invisible outside observers.

    • Chris K says:

      Never mind that, you forgot something more important!

      You forgot the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters!

      • quentin says:

        There was a bar in San Diego years ago that sold a drink called just that. Doubt that it had any Ol’ Janx Spirit in it

  2. Scott Panfil says:

    Love that the 3 inventions are more than three.

  3. Jeff Brewer says:

    Great article. My only quibble is that you used a picture of Marvin from the movie, rather than the BBC MINI-series…

    • quentin says:

      If you watched the movie carefully, they did show the original Marvin for just a few seconds

  4. quentin says:

    Isn’t Google Glass pretty darn close to Peril Sensitive Sunglasses? There might be an app for that

  5. Truth says:

    well i can see this person doesnt read or he’d know it hasnt been a “Trilogy” since nearly the start.

    there are 6 books out there:

    Hitchhiker’s guide
    Resturaunt at the end of the Universe
    Life the Universe and Everything
    So Long and Thanks for all the fish

    Mostly Harmless (released several years later)

    and a lesser known 6th book released after his death:

    And Another Thing (By Eoin Colfer) Dont know if Adams had any contributions to this story

  6. gazinbali says:

    Ohhh Im soooo depressed….

  7. libby says:

    This is what Marvin the Paranoid Robot really does look like.