It might be interesting speculate how the Restaurant at the End of the Universe segment might have been different if

Douglas Adams had written it after having read

Stephen Hawking's "

A Brief History Of Time".

In the book, Hawking explains that, when

quantum effects are taken into account, there is no neccesity for a

singularity at either the beginning or the end of the

universe. The reasons why seem more than a little complicated, but they break down something like this:

The universe we live in has at least

four dimensions (

string theory predicts more, but thankfully we don't have to touch that at this time.) Three of these are spatial dimensions, and are pretty much

interchangeable; that is, you can arbitrarily draw three lines at

right angles to each other, and you will get a set of

axes that are no more or less valid than any other set of axes in describing three-dimensional space. The fourth dimension that we directly perceive is time, and it works very differently. For one thing, we only know how to go in one direction, and that we do automatically. Just recently we have found ways to

slow down or speed up, but we can't as of yet stand still or go backwards. However, there is a mathematical way of looking at time so that one direction is no different from the other. Since it involves use of the

imaginary number i (

the square root of -1,) the result produces what

physicists call

imaginary time.

If we look at a

three-dimensional model of the universe with one

dimension representing

imaginary time and the other two representing the

expansion of the universe, we see a model that is not dissimilar to our own globe; the universe has finite boundaries in time, but it does not come to a singularity. Just as you can reach a point on the Earth that is as far north as possible, but that still follows the same laws as everywhere else on earth (with the possible exception of those that apply to

magnetics,) it is also possible to arrive at points that represent the farthest point in time in one direction or the other, but that follow all the normal

laws of physics.

Of course, "The Restaurant At An Arbitrarily-Determined Point In The Universe" doesn't have quite the same ring to it...