The 47 conspiracy or 47 reference is the observation that the number 47, multiples of the number, its reverse 74, or combinations of 4 and 7 appear with unnatural frequency in television shows and movies. These occurrences are most prevalent in the Star Trek universe, in the 'The Next Generation', 'Voyager' and the latest J. J. Abrams movies.
It pops up in dialogue as well on computer screens on board the Enterprise, for example 47 occurrences of the word "Darmok" are found in the ship's database, Scotty manages to beam up 47 aliens before their ship was destroyed and onboard Voyager the Emergency Medical Holographic can be found on channel 47.
The number 47 doesn't seem to appear unnaturally in the original Star Trek series, however an episode which was shot as part of production #47 is titled 'Obsession.' Fans have claimed that the most occurrences of 47 are in 'Voyager,' the number did appear frequently in earlier seasons of 'Deep Space Nine' too, however it's said that in later seasons the production team tired of the in-joke and the reference was dropped.
The number also appears in J. J. Abrams' new Star Trek movies starring Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, but 47 reference isn't just limited to Star Trek, J. J. has included it in many of his productions he's produced or directed, including the TV series 'Fringe,' 'Alias,' and 'Revolution' as well as the movies 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' where the thermal oscillator can be found in Precinct 47.
The strangest thing about J. J.'s use of the number 47 is why it wasn't included in "the numbers" in the hit TV series 'Lost'. The numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 were massively prominent in the show, but despite having J. J. as the executive producer, 47 wasn't one of the mysterious numbers.
It's well known that J. J. likes to pay homage to Star Trek in his work, so it's likely that his use of the number 47 is just another reference to its many appearances in the Star Trek television franchise.
The 47 reference dates back to 1964 at Pomona College, California, located off exit 47 on Interstate 10. Professor Donald Bentley offered up convincing mathematical proof that all numbers are equal to 47 and that the number 47 occurs with greater frequency in nature than other numbers.
Professor Bentley explained how all numbers are equal to 47 by asking students to draw an isosceles triangle, the sides of the triangle would by definition be of equal length, he then gave the sides of the triangles a length measurement, the numbers he chose were 47 and 74, but he could have chosen any numbers.
Professor Bentley then used a series of mathematical tricks to ensure that all sides, distance and paths around the triangle added up to either 47 or 74, claiming 47 was a magical number. It's said that other faculty members and senior students could not disprove his equations
Of course, this was all intended as a joke, but it caught the attention of the students and led to the formation of The 47 Society at the college who pushed Professor Bentley's proof and continued to look for occurrences of the number.
So how did this result in the number 47 appearing in television shows and movies? Well, Joe Menosky a Pomona graduate, went on to become one of the story writers for 'The Next Generation' and he introduced the number into scripts from the forth season, other Star Trek writers caught on and it became an in-joke, which resulted in the number 47 being used multiple times in storylines.
All of a sudden, where ever a number was spoken there was a good chance it was a 47; shields would drop to 47%, 47 people would die in a disaster, 47 minutes would remain until certain death.
Mentions of 47 appear in many forms throughout the Star Trek universe, the Enterprise stops at Sub-Space Relay Station 47, Data is unconscious for 47 seconds and the Emergency Medical Hologram aboard Voyager has the experience of 47 individual medical officers.
'My Fair Lady' (Movie 1964) - Colonel Pickering says that "no fewer than a hundred and forty-seven distinct languages are recorded as vernacular.".
'Star Trek' (TV Series 1966–1969) - 47 references can be found in the episodes 'Balance of Terror' [S01E14], 'Errand of Mercy' [S01E26], 'I, Mudd' [S02E08], 'Obsession' [S02E13], 'The Immunity Syndrome' [S02E18], 'Bread and Circuses' [S02E25], and 'Assignment: Earth' [S02E26].
'Star Trek: The Next Generation' (TV Series 1987–1994) - 47 references can be found in every episode of the seventh season as each episode's stardate begins with 47. Mentions of 47 can also be found in the following episodes. 'Angel One' [S01E13], 'We'll Always Have Paris' [S01E23], 'Conspiracy' [S01E24], 'Deja Q' [S03E13], 'Tin Man' [S03E20], 'Menage a Troi' [S03E24], 'Family' [S04E02], 'Brothers' [S04E03], 'Suddenly Human' [S04E04], 'Legacy' [S04E06], 'The Loss' [S04E10], 'Data's Day' [S04E11], 'Devil's Due' [S04E13], 'Clues' [S04E14], 'Identity Crisis' [S04E18], 'The Nth Degree' [S04E19], 'Qpid' [S04E20], 'The Drumhead' [S04E21], 'The Mind's Eye' [S04E24], 'In Theory' [S04E25], 'Darmok' [S05E02], 'Disaster' [S05E05], 'The Game' [S05E06], 'New Ground' [S05E10], 'Conundrum' [S05E14], 'The Outcast' [S05E17], 'Cause and Effect' [S05E18], 'The First Duty' [S05E19], 'Imaginary Friend' [S05E22], 'I, 'Borg' [S05E23], 'Time's Arrow: Part 2' [S06E01], 'Relics' [S06E04], 'Schisms' [S06E05], 'True Q' [S06E06], 'Rascals' [S06E07], 'A Fistful of Datas' [S06E08], 'Chain of Command: Part 2' [S06E11], 'Aquiel' [S06E13], 'Birthright: Part 1' [S06E16], 'Frame of Mind' [S06E21], 'Timescape' [S06E25], 'Descent: Part 1' [S06E26], 'Descent: Part 2' [S07E01], 'Interface' [S07E03], 'Attached' [S07E07], 'Force of Nature' [S07E09], 'Parallels' [S07E11], 'The Pegasus' [S07E12], 'Sub Rosa' [S07E14], 'Genesis' [S07E19], 'Emergence' [S07E23], and 'All Good Things...' [S07E25].
'Star Trek: Generations' (Movie 1994) - Scotty is able to save 47 of the 150 El-Aurian refugees.
'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' (TV Series 1993–1999) - Reference to 47 can be found in these DS9 episodes, 'Emissary' [S01E01], 'Babel' [S01E04], 'The Passenger' [S01E08], 'Progress' [S01E14], 'The Circle' [S02E02], 'Cardassians' [S02E05], 'Rivals' [S02E11], 'Whispers' [S02E14], 'Playing God' [S02E17], 'Blood Oath' [S02E19], 'The Maquis: Part 2' [S02E21], 'The Wire' [S02E22], 'The Search: Part 1' [S03E01], 'The Search: Part 2' [S03E02], 'The House of Quark' [S03E03], 'Equilibrium' [S03E04], 'Meridian' [S03E08], 'Defiant' [S03E09], 'Visionary' [S03E17], 'Family Business' [S03E23], 'Shakaar' [S03E24], 'The Adversary' [S03E26], 'The Visitor' [S04E02], 'Hippocratic Oath' [S04E03], 'Little Green Men' [S04E07], 'Our Man Bashir' [S04E09], 'Homefront' [S04E10], 'Paradise Lost' [S04E11], 'Crossfire' [S04E12], 'Return to Grace' [S04E13], 'Sons of Mogh' [S04E14], 'Accession' [S04E16], 'Hard Time' [S04E18], 'Shattered Mirror' [S04E19], 'The Muse' [S04E20], 'To the Death' [S04E22], 'Broken Link' [S04E25], 'Apocalypse Rising' [S05E01], '...Nor The Battle To The Strong' [S05E04], 'The Assignment' [S05E05], 'The Begotten' [S05E12], 'A Simple Investigation' [S05E17], 'Blaze of Glory' [S05E23], 'A Time to Stand' [S06E01], 'Sacrifice of Angels' [S06E06], 'You Are Cordially Invited...' [S06E07], 'Statistical Probabilities' [S06E09], 'Who Mourns for Morn?' [S06E12], 'One Little Ship' [S06E12], 'Change of Heart' [S06E16], 'Inquisition' [S06E18], 'In The Pale Moonlight' [S06E19], 'Valiant' [S06E22], 'Image in the Sand' [S07E01], 'Take Me Out To The Holosuite' [S07E04], 'Treachery, Faith and the Great River' [S07E06], 'The Siege of AR-558' [S07E08], 'Field of Fire' [S07E13], 'Extreme Measures' [S07E23], and 'The Dogs of War' [S07E24].
'Star Trek: Voyager' (TV Series 1995–2001) - Fans have spotted more references of 47 in 'Voyager' than in any other incarnation of Star Trek, you can find mentions of the numbers in these episodes. 'Caretaker' [S01E01], 'Parallax' [S01E02], 'Phage' [S01E04], 'Emanations' [S01E08], 'Cathexis' [S01E12], 'Learning Curve [S01E15], 'Projections' [S02E03], 'Elogium' [S02E04], 'Non Sequitur' [S02E05], 'Twisted' [S02E06], 'Cold Fire' [S02E10], 'Maneuvers' [S02E11], 'Resistance' [S02E12], 'Prototype' [S02E13], 'Threshold' [S02E15], 'Meld' [S02E16], 'Dreadnought' [S02E17], 'Death Wish' [S02E18], 'Lifesigns' [S02E19], 'Investigations' [S02E20], 'Deadlock' [S02E21], 'Innocence' [S02E22], 'Resolutions [S02E25], 'Basics: Part 2' [S03E01], 'Flashback' [S03E02], 'The Chute' [S03E03], 'The Swarm' [S03E04], 'False Profits' [S03E05], 'Future's End: Part 1' [S03E08], 'Future's End: Part 2' [S03E09], 'The Q and the Grey' [S03E11], 'Macrocosm' [S03E12], 'Fair Trade' [S03E13], 'Alter Ego' [S03E14], 'Unity' [S03E17], 'Rise' [S03E19], 'Before and After' [S03E21], 'Real Life' [S03E22], 'Distant Origin' [S03E23], 'Worst Case Scenario' [S03E25], 'Scorpion: Part 1 [S03E26], 'Scorpion: Part 2' [S04E01], 'The Gift' [S04E02], 'Nemesis' [S04E04], 'Scientific Method' [S04E07], 'The Year of Hell: Part 1' [S04E08], 'Concerning Flight' [S04E11], 'Waking Moments' [S04E13], 'Message in a Bottle' [S04E14], 'Hunters' [S04E15], 'Prey' [S04E16], 'The Killing Game: Part 1' [S04E18], 'Vis A Vis' [S04E20], 'The Omega Directive' [S04E21], 'Demon' [S04E24], 'One' [S04E25], 'Hope and Fear [S04E26], 'Night' [S05E01], 'Drone' [S05E02], 'Extreme Risk' [S05E03], 'In The Flesh' [S05E04], 'Once Upon a Time' [S05E05], 'Timeless' [S05E06], 'Infinite Regress' [S05E07], 'Thirty Days' [S05E09], 'Gravity' [S05E13], 'The Fight' [S05E19], 'Someone to Watch Over Me' [S05E22], 'Relativity' [S05E24], 'Warhead' [S05E25], 'Equinox: Part 1 [S05E26], 'Equinox: Part 2' [S06E01], 'Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy' [S06E04], 'Alice' [S06E05], 'One Small Step' [S06E08], 'Pathfinder' [S06E10], 'Fair Haven' [S06E11], 'Tsunkatse' [S06E15], 'Live Fast and Prosper' [S06E21], 'Unimatrix Zero: Part 1 [S06E26], 'Unimatrix Zero: Part 2' [S07E01], 'Q2' [S07E19], 'Author, Author!' [S07E20], 'Friendship One' [S07E21], and 'Endgame' [S07E25].
'Fringe: Bad Dreams' [S01E17] (TV Epsiode 2009) - In Nick Lane's apartment there is a wall filled with clippings. In the middle of this mass of paper is a sheet on which the number 47 is written in huge typeface.
'Star Trek' (Movie 2009) - the Enterprise was built in Sector 47 of the Riverside Shipyards, and 47 Klingon ships are said to have been destroyed by Nero's ship, the Narada.
'Revolution: Soul Train' [S01E05] (TV Episode 2012) - An old train engine is numbered 47.
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' (Movie 2015) - The thermal oscillator is located in Precinct 47.
According to 'Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy' the number 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything. Star Trek executive producer Rick Berman once joked that, "47 is 42, corrected for inflation."