Virtual Monkeys Nearly Done Pecking Out Shakespeare

Bard's works being randomly reproduced, 9 characters at a time
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2011 8:57 AM CDT
Virtual Monkeys Nearly Done Pecking Out Shakespeare
'It was the best of times - it was the blurst of times?'   (Shutterstock)

A computer programmer testing the old theory that monkeys randomly mashing keyboards will eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare says his virtual monkeys are nearly done with the Bard. Jesse Anderson—who keeps a running total on his blog—calculates that, in the "largest work ever randomly" reproduced, the simulated monkeys uploaded to Amazon servers have already written The Tempest and A Lover's Complaint.

Anderson, who began the project around a month ago, is taking sequences of nine characters typed by the monkeys and comparing them against snippets of Shakespeare. "There are 5.5 trillion different permutations of nine characters," he explains. "We're creating nine-character sets and seeing if part of that matches Shakespeare." But if Anderson tried to wait for the monkeys to randomly produce a flawless copy of the complete works of Shakespeare, he would be waiting for "far, far longer than the age of the Universe," a mathematics professor tells the BBC. (Read more probability stories.)

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