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Infinite monkey's writing shakespeare possible?

  1. Jun 30, 2004 #1

    Lecturers and students from the University of Plymouth wanted to test the claim that an infinite number of monkeys given typewriters would create the works of The Bard.

    A single computer was placed in a monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo to monitor the literary output of six primates.

    But after a month, the Sulawesi crested macaques had only succeeded in partially destroying the machine, using it as a lavatory, and mostly typing the letter "s".

    The project, by students from the university's MediaLab Arts course, received £2,000 from the Arts Council.

    The work was interesting but had little scientific value, except to show that the "infinite monkey" theory is flawed

    Dr Amy Plowman, Paignton Zoo scientific officer
    Director of the university's Institute of Digital Arts and Technology (i-DAT), Mike Phillips, denied the project was a disaster and said they had learned "an awful lot".

    He also denied it had been a waste of money.

    He said the £2,000 was spent on purchasing the hardware to set up a radio link so the activities in the enclosure could be watched live on a website.

    "Compared to the cost of reality TV, this was a tiny pinch of money," he said.

    "It provided very stimulating and fascinating viewing."

    The six monkeys - Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan - produced five pages of text which consisted mainly of the letter "s".

    Book published

    But towards the end of the experiment, their output slightly improved, with the letters A, J, L and M also appearing.

    However, they failed to come up with anything that remotely resembled a word.

    The results of the experiment formed part of a larger project developed by i-DAT.

    They have been published in a limited edition book entitled Notes Towards The Complete Works of Shakespeare.

    *** you'd think that with infinite monkey's, comes infinite possiblities. I really don't like this article, because of the lack of understanding what "infinity" really means. They're basing their conclusion on the fact that there is no randomness. Why should you need complete randomness if we're dealing with infinity? if there is infinity monkey's, then there are infinite monkeys much unlike Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan who will actually take their time without SMASHING groups of letters at a time. There will be infinite monkey's who won't just hold down one key. There will be infinite monkey's who actually randomly pick keys on the typewriter. What do you guys think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 1, 2004 #2


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    There are good arguments against the infinite monkey theory. I came up with the problem of "monkey density" . How do we space the monkeys so that they don't collapse into a black hole? Given that spacing, and assuming that we are at the center of mass of the monkeys, and assuming that the monkeys' output is transmitted to us at c, should we expect the works of Sakespeare in the lifetime of the universe? I bet an infinite number of monkeys just ruins all the cosmological constant calculations!

  4. Jul 1, 2004 #3


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    Well if you have a uniform density of an infinite number of monkeys, then your universe is open, possibly deSitter, and probably will have an infinite lifetime.
  5. Jul 1, 2004 #4
    exactly..it's not a matter of deciding whether these monkey's CAN exist, because by stating the monkey-typing-shakespeare theory, we assume they ALREADY exist...
    and having 6 monkeys testing out a few pages has nothing to do with infiinity.
  6. Jul 1, 2004 #5
    Holy Christ! How stupid! William Shakespeare was a monkey.
  7. Jul 5, 2004 #6
    If the information entropy is also proportional to the surface area, as some have proposed, the inverse may also be true. An infinite number of monkeys have already reproduced the works of Shakespear, but we must wait for them to randomly emerge from a black hole.

    This may also explain all those missing socks....
  8. Jul 14, 2004 #7
    Bill Shakespeare was just one man.A room full of monkeys is irrelavant.
  9. Jul 14, 2004 #8


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    Irrelevant? Those are in the pachyderm area, not the primate house!

    Hmmm... that joke just doesn't work in writing. :frown:

  10. Jul 14, 2004 #9
    from a purely theoretical viewpoint there are people around who conjecture what might happen given infinite time -- but as far as I am aware there is no evidence of something called 'randomness' in that true sense , systems which appear random may in fact be chaotic with attraction centers such as the monkey 's'.
  11. Jul 14, 2004 #10


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    Is the suggestion not flawed before it even begins?
    I mean this in the sense of the infinite support systems that would be required. Are we allowing for mutations?
    Sorry - perhaps I'm taking it too literally.
    If it was somehow possible, I doubt that, even given infinite time (!) anything even vaguely approaching his works would precipitate.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2004
  12. Jul 16, 2004 #11
    someone should consider looking at the old saying as an explanation of uncertainty theory and not as a theory itself...
    if you consider the monkeys as purely random number generators, it'd be true... of course, some may claim, that nothing is random...
  13. Jul 16, 2004 #12
    do you think they tried to encode a message to us? perhaps they tried to tell the zoo keepers what they really think of them (ofcourse encoded).

    now really that's waste of money.
  14. Jul 16, 2004 #13


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    It would be asking a lot of a finite experiment to prove or disprove (if either can actually be done) an infinite theory.
  15. Jul 16, 2004 #14
    I think they are on to something. They are most certainly describing the authorship of most human social systems. This is just a micro project. The monkeys have a delicate instrument, and they use it as a toilet, and then come up with the first letter of a common term for feces, voila, their literature. On a global scale, human monkeys do about the same thing. The Earth, a very delicate instrument, is our toilet. We are so obsessed with this process, that we make things on a continuing basis so we can throw them away, and make new things to throw away. We are the crap masters.
  16. Jul 18, 2004 #15

    jimmy p

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    Maybe in the language of Macaques, Shakespeare contains a lot of s's
  17. Jul 20, 2004 #16
    OK, first I'll take the "pure" scenario, i.e. the random number generator generating a specific number. If the generator can generate any number at all, and you want it to generate a specific number given infinite time, it almost certainly won't happen. You see, it can generate an infinite number of numbers, and it has infinite time to do it. To cover all numbers on the number line, it would have to always generate a new number and never repeat. Even so, it would never reach all numbers, because infinite time never ends, and there would always be infinite numbers not generated. Cool stuff happens when infinity takes on infinity in a head-to-head match. I think that if you choose a single number, like pi, 8, or 2.3451, the generator would not generate it just because its probability of being generated in extremely miniscule.

    However, if you want the generator to generate a 36-digit long number, it will almost certainly happen. You see, there is only a finite set of 36-digit long numbers, and it will generate an infinite set of 36-digit long numbers. When infinite stuff takes on finite stuff, it's not a fight; it's a slaughter.

    Now I'll take on the question of the monkeys themselves. However, these monkeys aren't just any ordinary simians; they never die, they don't collapse into each other and form a black hole (although that's a cool mental image), they don't destroy the typewriters, and they never ever take a break from typing. In short, they are a highly specialized race of SuperMonkeys. Now, we will say that they completed the task when they type all the works of Shakespeare, no matter what comes before it or after it. They can type a bunch of "s"s and "q"s after the last period of his works, for all I care. The entire works of Shakespeare is essentially a finite group of letters. For the sake of arguement, let's say that the set is 100,000 letters long. That's still a finite set. Plus, there's only a finite set of 100,000-letter-long sets. We're sort of talking about a finite set of finite sets. There are only so many ways to bring 100,000 letters (a finite set) together. The monkeys, even just one monkey, will type an infinite set of 100,000 letter-long sets. This time, infinite stuff meets a tag team of two sets of finite stuff. Still, it's no contest. The SuperMonkeys will type it.

    Now ordinary monkeys are another matter entirely. They will just type a bunch of "s"s, break the typewriters, and form a huge balck hole. With our universe's laws of physics, it couldn't possibly happen. However, in the pure SuperMonkey universe, it can and will.
  18. Jul 20, 2004 #17


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    The latest scientific research actually suggests that the black holes currently existing in our universe were really planets where foolish yet curious people put an infinite number of monkey-like creatures to the task of writing a Shakespeare-like play, and of course, they collapsed to form the black holes we now see today.
  19. Jul 21, 2004 #18
    That's it! I've heard enough of this madness! The monkeys must be stopped!

    I propose setting up a rebel faction of terrorist scientists to oppose the rising force of typewriter monkeys. I suggest our immediate course of action should be an attempt to secure all typewriter-related assets thusfar manufactured and eject them into space. This, of course, will only delay the inevitable. Eventually, the monkeys themselves must be stopped. Once we have secured the proper assets, we will begin reconnaissance to discover the source of the typewriter monkeys.

    I suspect they are being herded here through an ancient inter-dimensional gateway leading to the nether region of spacetime to which all typewriter monkeys return upon achieving a singularity, hence setting up the cycle for repetition. WE MUST NOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN!!!

    Who's with me?!
  20. Jul 21, 2004 #19
    It just came to me! They must have been sent back in time using the inter-dimensional gateway from the Planet of the Apes. Director Tim Burton somehow got wind of this perilous plot and re-made the movie Planet of the Apes to show apes coming back in time in order to warn us. Strangely, even though he implied a sequel, it was never followed up. The monkeys must have neutralized him and taken him prisoner, replacing him with a plastic surgery-enhanced ape who looks like Tim Burton. Who knows how many world leaders are actually simians in disguise? I fear that our only hope is to lure the Pod People here and hope that they and the monkeys destroy themselves in a cataclysmic battle worthy of a Godzilla movie.
  21. Jul 22, 2004 #20


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    I just hope that they don't obtain Tippex - please oh please.
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