The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

16 April 2007

Meanwhile on the tapioca tundra

So how many monkeys, bashing away at typewriters, does it take to produce the works of Shakespeare?

A hundred years ago, French mathematician Émile Borel suggested this particular Gedankenexperiment as a means of envisioning events of close to infinite improbability. More recently, six crested macaques were locked in a cage with a keyboard and observed: they produced five pages of unreadable type and rather a lot of, um, residual waste material. A simulation begun in 2003 posited not quite infinite monkeys and not quite infinite speed; in the first year the cyberprimates coughed up a string of twenty-one characters from Love's Labour's Lost, and by now they're up to a whole line from Henry IV, Part 2. Still, I wouln't count on getting a transcript of Hamlet's soliloquy anytime soon. (Maybe if they used Dvorak keyboards?)

As for me, I'm looking for a ferret with a prehensile tail to take over my duties here, and I have a (much shorter) counterexperiment to suggest: drop all of Shakespeare's known text into a database and see if it's possible to extract the lyrics to any song by the Monkees.

(Via Fark.)

Posted at 8:00 AM to Almost Yogurt