back to article Hitchhikers' Guide was WRONG, Earth is not in a galactic backwater

As just about any regular Reg reader knows, the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy states authoritatively that this planet Earth lies "far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy". However, it appears that in this case the Guide is probably wrong. We learn this from new …


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  1. Glenn Booth

    What's with all the 'mights' and 'maybes'? Why don't they get off their podgy behinds and go for a little trip. When they get far enough away they can turn around and have a proper look at whether we're in a 'major spiral arm' or just a little spur.

    I don't know...apathetic bloody planet. Can't be bothered to take an interest in local affairs etc etc

    1. Mike Tubby
      Thumb Up

      Watch out for hyperspace bypasses

      ... if we don't watch out they'll put a hyperspace bypass right through our solar system... we need to take more interest in local affairs - especially planning applications that are otherwise filed in the bottom draw of a filing cabinet in a disused toilet in the basement with a sign on the door that says "Be aware of the Tiger"!


      1. jnemesh

        Re: Watch out for hyperspace bypasses

        "Beware of the Leopard"

        1. Rukario

          Re: Watch out for hyperspace bypasses

          Mike Tubby / jnemesh

          These days, "Beware of the Mountain Lion."

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      I'll get me towel...

    3. Daniel B.

      @Glenn Booth

      hehe ... you have 41 likes ... one more upvote and you'll have the magic number!

    4. Super Fast Jellyfish
      Thumb Up

      No upvotes from me

      'cos when I got here it had reached 42...

      1. Shades

        Re: No upvotes from me

        And then two people went and spoilt it! Poor show guys! :(

      2. traceyfields

        Re: No upvotes from me

        when i got here, it had reached 69 ... which is a far better answer than 42 :)

        no icon - because i can't decide between PH or a drink afterwards to [ahhem] - "clear the throat" ;)

    5. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Actually, it's been rather well understood, but didn't have six sigma proof that we're on a local arm.

      That said, I don't see six sigma on the current data.

      I only see more information that we are on the local arm, rather on a better known arm.

      In sort, six of one, half dozen of the other as far as reality is concerned.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        We will remain a backwater

        as long as cricket is being played on earth. I thought everybody knew that

  2. NukEvil

    Learn to reprezzent, yo!

    So we have basically gone from being a place where they steal the spinners, the '22s, and the 10k watt sound systems off the occasional passing star cruiser, to the posh gated resort community where everyone with any measurable influence stops by for a week-long vacation at alpha centauri?

    Of course, they do stop by Earth every now and then, to exterminate the roaches we call humanity, but they haven't been by in a while, for some reason.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Learn to reprezzent, yo!

      My thoughts exactly.

      Local Estate Agents are already increasing house prices.

      UKIP have issued a statement about 'increased foreign workers' and EDL are as confused as usual.

      I'm not so sure though, first sound of 'AAAAAAAKKK' and I'm gone.

    2. Rukario

      Re: Learn to reprezzent, yo!

      "exterminate the roaches we call humanity"

      That was merely a byproduct of a Disaster Area concert.

    3. Mips

      Re: Learn to reprezzent, yo!

      Yeh! Yeh! But! I see they mention local clouds of alcohol and water. So there must be a party going on somewhere. I thought it was nice and quiet here but we have just been told that the hoodlums and drunks are round the corner and coming our way.

      Now where are my dark glasses.

  3. PhilF


    I was lead to understand that the H2G2 contained much that was unreliable, if not wholly apocryphal?

    1. Stoneshop
      Thumb Up


      The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.

    2. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Up

      @PhilF Re: Wrong?

      ITYM the Guide "contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate"

      1. PhilF
        Thumb Up

        Re: @PhilF Wrong?

        Thanks - didn't have a copy to hand and the old memory is not as sharp as back in the day

    3. John Angelico
      Thumb Up

      Re: Wrong?

      However, it scores over the older and more pedestrian Encyclopedia Galactica (hello, Hari Seldon and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series) on two points:

      a) it is slightly cheaper


      b) it tells you how to make the best drink in the known galaxy - the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster

  4. G R Goslin


    But what will that do to house prices?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: But,

      Depends if those bloody vogons are in the neighbourhood...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But,

      We'll get 'new money' aliens moving in next door with their bloody monogrammed planets. Meteors advising us that 'the solar system next door just sold for a record price and have we considered absndoning earth'. Will fall from the sky every saturday. Oh, and don't forget the goddamned nova's always going off until the wee hours of the morning.

      1. Rukario

        New money aliens?

        But... Magrathea is still closed for regular business. Unless, the "new money aliens" are, of course, mice, the only clients special and extraordinary enough for Magrathea to reopen for one special commission.

  5. David Knapman

    Of course

    All that the guide itself has to say for Earth is "Harmless" (later updated to "Mostly Harmless")

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Of course

      Actually, in "Mostly Harmless" the Guide suddenly restored had all of what Ford had written on the Earth - volumes and volumes of entries. That was a big part of what motivated Ford to investigate, as he had reasonably enough assumed that the Guide would delete Earth's entry, Earth itself having been deleted.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intergalactic clouds of alcohol?

    Home of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster...

    1. maravill

      Re: Intergalactic clouds of alcohol?

      Yeah, I'll take one right now.

      1. Down not across

        Re: Intergalactic clouds of alcohol?

        Good idea.

        Hmm, I better have another one to follow the first one to check it is all right. I'll send down a third drink to see why the second hasn't reported on condition of the first.

  7. Spoonsinger

    Sorry, obligatory "Dimension Of Miracles" quote:-

    "You want me to tell you why reality is the way it is," Seethwright said. "But there is no explanation for that. You must simply learn to fit your preconceptions to what you find. You must not expect reality to adapt itself to you, except very infrequently"

    (Ducks to even suggest something was somewhat based on something else).

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Sorry, obligatory "Dimension Of Miracles" quote:-

      Sorry, standard Pratchett quote:-

      'What duck?'

      1. Scorchio!!

        Re: Sorry, obligatory "Dimension Of Miracles" quote:-

        "This is the voice of the Mysterons, we know you can hear us Earthlings [...]"

  8. lglethal Silver badge


    "...faraway clouds of water and alcohol. Such localities are where hot young stars are to be found..."

    So we're talking Ibiza then... Does that position Earth somewhere in the equivalent of the Spanish Riveira? Somewhere beautiful but which you drive past because Barcelona's only that little bit further away? ;)

    1. tony2heads

      Re: Hmmm...

      I just go down to the bar and find out

      1. tony2heads

        Re: Hmmm...

        perhaps not, I just noticed a really hot young star

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Hmmm...

          Phwoooarrr look at the binaries on that system...

    2. Rukario

      Re: Hmmm...

      Barcelona the planet, the one where dogs have no noses?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Hmmm... (set-up)

        If the dogs have no noses, how do they smell?

        1. Martin Budden Silver badge

          Re: Hmmm... (set-up)


        2. Pedigree-Pete

          Re: Hmmm... (set-up)

          RE: Dogs with no noses. Just in case no-one has done this yet.

          Obvious answer AWFUL.

          Mines the one with the dog treats in the pocket.

  9. Isendel Steel

    Mostly Harmless

    Also (possibly) inaccurate - but updated in the Guide Mk II

  10. A. H. O. Thabeth

    Miss you Douglas!

    As Mr Douglas Adams stated

    "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

    1. David Pollard

      Re: Miss you Douglas!

      As the Guide rightly points out, space is indeed really big. That's why suggestions that "[our local galaxy] is a major structure" are so parochial.

  11. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    faraway clouds of water and alcohol. Such localities are where hot young stars are to be found, an unfailing indicator of trendiness in galactic neighbourhood terms.

    Well it's no wonder the Guide was wrong then!* After the writers had spent some time at a particularly excellent party with the naturally occurring alcohol and hot young starlets - they were so hung-over that they probably just copied any old rubbish down - from, say, the back of a cereal packet...

    *The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy makes the reassuring claim that where it is inaccurate, it is at least definitively inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it is always reality that’s got it wrong.

    So, for instance, when the Guide was sued by the families of those who had died as a result of taking the entry on the planet Traal literally - it said “Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts often make a very good meal for visiting tourists” instead of “Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts often make a very good meal of visiting tourists” - the editors claimed that the first version of the sentence was the more aesthetically pleasing; summoned a qualified poet to testify under oath that beauty was truth, truth beauty, and hoped thereby to prove that the guilty party in this case was life itself for failing to be either beautiful or true.

  12. Ian 62

    We apologize for the inconvenience

  13. Code Monkey

    I'm not convinced

    It sounds like we're in the low-rent shithole between 2 genuinely nice areas.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: I'm not convinced

      "Up and coming"

      "Shows great potential"

      "A great investment opportunity"

      "An unmissable chance to get on the property ladder"

      That's no Space Elevator -- it's a 'for sale sign'!

  14. cray74

    You can live in a nice, desireable area and still be in the backwoods. It just takes a while for galactic sprawl and gentrification to reach our area.

    1. John G Imrie

      When I was a lad ...

      all this was firmament as far as the eye could see, not that we 'ad eyes in them days o'course.

  15. Zaphod_42

    The words "Don't Panic" come to mind.....

  16. RealBigAl

    I figure it's somebody else's problem

  17. Charles-A Rovira

    Great, its a ghetto then.

    I'm sorry but before we were in a suburb, now we're in a ghetto.

    That is NOT an improvement.

    1. Daniel B.

      Re: Great, its a ghetto then.

      It's worse.

      We're probably the last remaining ghetto inside a gentrified arm of the Galaxy.

  18. danR2

    "...beaming out of faraway clouds of water and alcohol."

    This story doesn't need a punch-line.

    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: "...beaming out of faraway clouds of water and alcohol."

      The naturally occuring energetic emissions closely matching predictions based on simulations run in pubs across the land.

    2. Colin Brett

      Re: "...beaming out of faraway clouds of water and alcohol."

      "This story doesn't need a punch-line."

      No. It needs a punch bowl for all that alcohol and unidentifiable bits of fruit.

      Time to go ...

  19. Anonymous Coward

    It's still unfashionable though unlike the hipster districts in the Scutum–Centaurus Arm.

    1. Rukario

      Hipster districts?

      Malus Major Alpha, then.

  20. An(other) Droid


    So does this mean no more interstellar expressway through this sector?

  21. djk

    ...and in a further commentary

    ...and in a letter to the Journal of Astromedico Research, Galactic President Zaphod Beebelbrox and Monkey-man Dent Arthur Dent discussed the implications of the location of the Earth neighborhood being not in a backwater but rather a branch of the Perseus Arm or even an independent arm segment. They write of the possibility of the segment being a prosthetic arm attached to the Milky Way. Beebelbrox, however, argues that just as it is possible to grow another head, the galaxy could simply have decided that another arm would be an attractive appendage. Dent added that while the Earth was a giant computer created by gigantic trans-dimensional beings, there was an equally good chance that the independent, prosthetic galactic arm could simply be a manifestation in our dimension of a really big being that was creating a new prosthetic to transport inter-dimensionally after it had coalesced completely.

    1. sisk

      Re: ...and in a further commentary

      You forgot to mention Marvin's assertion that it's surely a sign that we're all doomed.

  22. Mark Dowling

    Typical Terrans

    Always trying to claim exceptionalism.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Located on a minor arm between two larger arms."

    'Tis as I suspected all along - we're a pimple on the dick of the universe.

    1. Fading

      Re: Sigh

      I was going to post a "so if those arn't spiral arms, more spiral legs, that makes us a spiral eurggh" type comment but you got there first.......

  24. Canopus

    I think this calls for a recital of Vogon Poetry !!!

    Or for watching the X-factor which isn't very far from being the same. :-)

    1. Return To Sender

      Re: I think this calls for a recital of Vogon Poetry !!!

      Hmm, X-Factor. More like a rectal of Vogon Poetry...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't get any of these jokes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh boy

      Hand in your geek card at the front desk, please.

  26. All names Taken

    Normal service will be resumed shortly

  27. Gav
    Thumb Down

    Spoiler Alert!

    Way to ruin the end of the trilogy guys.

  28. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Far from the centre

    But we are still about 30,000 light years from the centre of the Milky Way.

    1. SirDigalot

      Re: Far from the centre

      but we are really close to a mars, and we do a lot of snickering

      and I could throw in a reference to 'button' moon but that's taking it a little too far

      <<<< sorry I know been a long week already

    2. Cipher

      Re: Far from the centre

      Considering what is likely at the center, this is a good thing...

    3. Vic

      Re: Far from the centre

      > we are still about 30,000 light years from the centre of the Milky Way

      Not flown RyanAir, have you?


  29. Doug 3

    42 comments too!

    it seems correct and satisfying that there are 42 comments in this article regarding a minute deviation in The Guide. oh snap....

  30. Jamie Jones Silver badge


    House prices are too expensive as it is!

  31. ecofeco Silver badge

    I know a sales pitch when I see one

    Question is, who's buying?

    I for one, welcome our new galactic, er, landlords.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Also, the Sun is not an insignificant star...

    The Sun is brighter than 85% of the stars in the Galaxy.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Also, the Sun is not an insignificant star...

      But the stuff in orbit ain't that bright.

  33. Attila of welshpool

    the guide rules

    In chapter 6 of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe (on pages 177 and 178 of my compendium edition) the limitations of the Guide are clearly recognised.

    It states " the... Guide to... is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of the life in an infinitely complex and confusing Universe, for although it cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does at least make the reassuring claim, that where it is inaccurate it is at least definitely inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it's always reality that's got it wrong.

    This was the gist of the notice. It said " The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.""

  34. Curly123

    Next time I won't cheap out

    I knew that I should have spent the extra money and went for the Encyclopedia Galactica

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Next time I won't cheap out

      Wasn't that the one written on Terminus?

  35. Colin 4

    stupid bloody reality

    Er ... no. The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.

  36. itzman

    Well, there goes the neigborhood, then.

    All the Vogons will be moving in.

    Vote Earth Independence Party!

  37. Herby

    So maybe...

    The answer isn't 42, but some other number.

    I'll take a stab at it and say it is 108. Works for me!

  38. Stevie

    Oi, Mr Page!

    No spoilers!

  39. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    "likely a significant branch"

    ... so we have no idea where we are then?

    <== Think I'll head off to the Local Arm for a drink. With a name like that it just sounds like a posh place.

  40. deadlockvictim

    Sound like an article from 'The Onion'

    Local man states his area is actually quite respectable.

    And so on...

  41. thomas newton

    what do we know?

    we still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

    six pints, please. and four packets of peanuts. keep the change.

    1. scrishton

      Re: what do we know?

      From a fiver? Thank you very much sir.

    2. Johnny Doe

      Re: what do we know?

      From a fiver sir? That's very generous!

  42. Crisp

    Report from planet Earth suggests planet Earth is important.

    I find El Reg to be so humancentric. There are other planets with life out there (possibly,) you know!

  43. fijired2

    Thanks for all this...

    ... haven't had such a good laugh for a while. The people on the bus aren't impressed, though.

  44. veti Silver badge

    In other words

    ... our galactic neighbourhood is analogous to Slough.

    Or, for Americans, New Jersey.


  45. Sealand

    Astronomic name tagging

    The location of the earth may well have gone upscale, but to me, the name "Local Arm" still suggests something very rural. You know - one bus in each direction per day, chickens running around on a dirt road, the odd dog barking, that sort of thing. Couldn't they have come up with something a little more Ritzy?

  46. Colin Brett

    As a H2G2 Fan ...

    I've seen so many quotes from the books in these comments that surely we can come up with a new story? There have been 6 books so far (I haven't read And Another Thing). Shouldn't we commentards be working on the 7th?


  47. agricola

    Maybe if we spruce the old place up...

    Please ask the galactic estate agent the Penultimate Question:

    So, how much can we get for the old place if we do a great landcape job, replace the roof, go all-out upgrading the loos, and replace all the kitchen appliances with stainless-steel? Oh, I almost forgot: we'll replace those bourgeois formica countertops with granite.

    What's the answer, meece?

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