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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Well I'll be a monkey's uncle... again!

 Can't believe it has been almost three years since I last wrote about The Infinite Number of Monkeys Theory. It proposes that, given an infinite number of typewriters (word processors to those of us in the know), an infinite number of monkeys will eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. My, time does fly when you are having fun. But there is a need to update this monkey business with new, semi-scientific earthshaking data.

Remember six years ago when researchers at the esteemed Plymouth University in England conducted an experiment? Neither do I, but they did. To simplify the expected miracle, researchers gave six monkeys one computer for one month then, eagerly awaited the results.

Eventually, the monkeys, typing randomly, produced only five pages of text, filled mostly with the letter S with a few A's, J's, L's and M's thrown in. What researchers did seem to prove is that the monkeys were more "interested in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard."

Well obviously, they used uncouth monkeys... the slow learners.

Better still is the 1993 Simpsons episode, "Last Exit to Springfield" where Montgomery Burns has a room with 1000 monkeys (admit it--don't most of us have such a monkey-filled room hidden behind a staircase or secret wall like I do? Uh... you don't? Oh...) pounding randomly at typewriters. Looking over one monkey's work, he chastises it for mistyping a word in the opening sentence of A Tale of Two Cities — "'It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?"

"You stupid monkey!"

As everyone obviously knows, the original mention of the "monkey theory" goes back to 1913, proposed by Émile Borel in his essay, “Mécanique Statistique et Irréversibilité.” (Really.) Seems we have been interested in monkey-typed words far longer than any sane society would call normal.

Well, in this computer age it should be expected that a new experiment has been conducted with theoretical monkeys working hard at theoretical keyboards saved to the theoretical hard drive in the cloud for theoretical eons--actually two months, computer time--to produce all of The Bard's works. And guess what? The best that came out of this were four nine-letter strings that actually matched those Will had used. Theoretical monkeys produced therefore, glouceste(no r), gentleman and King Henry. There were no ten-letter strings produced... and no theoretical defecating on those theoretical keyboards.  

So it appears the monkeys have a long way to go... and chimpanzees are rated as the smartest non-human. But we never give up on the stupid stuff because... well, because we are human and we lack the basic animal instinct of common sense.

FYI: The smartest living creatures in the animal category--not counting us-- are (in order) chimps, dolphins, orangutans, elephants, crows, pigs, squirrels, pigeons, octopi and rats. And of these, I would pick the octopus as best able to reproduce Shakespeare randomly... because, of course, they have eight appendages... or in stupid experiment-speak, capable of four typewriters/word processors at a time using the classic two-tentacle touch method.

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