# Random Numbers

n. When one wishes to specify a large but random number of things, and the context is inappropriate for N, certain numbers are preferred by hacker tradition (that is, easily recognized as placeholders). These include the following:

- 17Long described at MIT as 'the least random number'; see 23.
- 23Sacred number of Eris, Goddess of Discord (along with 17 and 5).
- 42The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. (Note that this answer is completely fortuitous. 😀)
- 69From the sexual act. This one was favored in MIT's ITS culture.
- 10569 hex = 105 decimal, and 69 decimal = 105 octal.
- 666The Number of the Beast.

For further enlightenment, consult the 'Principia Discordia', 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', 'The Joy of Sex', and the Christian Bible (Revelation 13:8).

See also Discordianism or consult your pineal gland.

One common rhetorical maneuver uses any of the canonical random numbers as placeholders for variables.

"*The max function takes 42 arguments, for arbitrary values of 42.*"

"*There are 69 ways to leave your lover, for 69 = 50.*"

This is especially likely when the speaker has uttered a random number and realizes that it was not recognized as such, but even 'non-random' numbers are occasionally used in this fashion. A related joke is that pi equals 3 -- for small values of pi and large values of 3.