Ok, so I had fully intended to write a post inviting five people to guest blog on fermatd. I figured the best place to start would be with the following opening:

‘It has been said that 1,000 monkeys with typewriters would eventually produce a work of Shakespeare. Thanks to the internet, we now know that is not true. How would you like to be a monkey?’

Pretty decent opening. Short, funny enough for a chuckle, a common enough reference that your average person would get the context. I had to tweak the quote a bit to make it fit my purpose. Standard stuff. The next step was to insert a hyperlink to a random webpage about monkeys and typewriters.

And that is when the wheels came off the bus. I mean completely off.

If you enter ‘1000 monkeys’ into Google, the first page that come up is a wiki page titled, ‘Infinite monkey theorem – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia’. (cue poor British accent) ‘Ello, what’s all this then? My first thought was that this is a token page with the theorem and a few anecdotal examples.

I click.

What follows is a very thorough summary of the typing monkey theorem, followed by the statistical proofs to attempt to support or refute the idea. Here is my favorite part of the article:

Even if the observable universe were filled with monkeys the size of atoms typing from now until the heat death of the universe, their total probability to produce a single instance of *Hamlet* would still be many orders of magnitude less than one in 10^{183,800}. As Kittel and Kroemer put it, “The probability of *Hamlet* is therefore zero in any operational sense of an event…”, and the statement that the monkeys must eventually succeed “gives a misleading conclusion about very, very large numbers.” This is from their textbook on thermodynamics, the field whose statistical foundations motivated the first known expositions of typing monkeys.^{[1]}

Am I going to quote the above the next time I become embroiled in an asinine problem at work? Oh yeah.

And there you go. I start my blog by poking fun at a ridiculous concept only to be humbled by the amount of work a group of people put into to proving that monkeys can’t write Shakespeare. Those are some damn industrious monkeys, er, people.

And so it goes.

f

1. Kittel, Charles and Herbert Kroemer (1980). *Thermal Physics (2nd ed.)*. W. H. Freeman Company. pp. 53. ISBN 0-7167-1088-9.

### Like this:

Like Loading...

*Related*