Thursday, October 20

The Infinite Monkey Project

An infinite number of typist monkeys will eventually reproduce a) every book in the Bibliothèque nationale de France or b) the entire works of William Shakespeare.

We love monkeys here at Monkey Daemon, and so happened to come across a great Wikipedia article that tracks the origin of this famous pop-culture touchstone.

(Montgomery Burns, inspecting the work of his monkey typist team: "'It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?!' You stupid monkey!")

A few selected snippits:

-- An infinite number of monkeys given an infinite amount of time is, simply, overkill.

-- "If the monkey could type one keystroke every nanosecond, the expected waiting time until the monkey types out Hamlet is so long that the estimated age of the universe is insignificant by comparison ... this is not a practical method for writing plays," wrote Gian-Carlo Rota.

-- Jorge Luis Borges, explores a similar theme in the story "The Library of Babel," which contains volumes filled with random strings of characters. The narrator notes that every great work of literature is contained in the library; but these are outnumbered by the flawed works, which are in turn vastly outnumbered by the gibberish.

-- ABC political insider email newsletter The Note often refers to the Washington press corps as "the Googling monkeys."

-- In 2003, scientists at Paignton Zoo and the University of Plymouth reported that they had left a computer keyboard in the enclosure of six Sulawesi Crested Macaques (see photo above) for a month; not only did the monkeys produce nothing but five pages (PDF) consisting largely of the letter S, they started by attacking the keyboard with a stone, and continued by urinating and defecating on it.

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