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May 9, 2003 10:27 AM   Subscribe


 
Since they didn't use infinite monkeys it doesn't disprove the theory.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:30 AM on May 9, 2003


SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS asssssssSSSlssssssssssssssssjmmmmmmmmssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss
posted by jonmc at 10:32 AM on May 9, 2003


Sorry, I'm better after my banana.
posted by jonmc at 10:33 AM on May 9, 2003


I agree with Outlawyr. The experiment is a metaphor, and it can't be taken literally because we don't have enough monkeys or time.

The fact that the monkeys were "mostly typing the letter "s"" should be encouraging, though, right? Because isn't "s" the most commonly used letter? Or is that why I always lose at hangman?
posted by zekinskia at 10:34 AM on May 9, 2003


Plus, how do we know that "sssssssssssssssssssssssssss" and/or "ajlmaljajmmajmalajml" isn't a word - nay, isn't actually the beginning of Hamlet - in Macaque?
posted by soyjoy at 10:34 AM on May 9, 2003


It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times!?!

Stupid monkeys.
posted by bobo123 at 10:35 AM on May 9, 2003


eek eek.
posted by adampsyche at 10:37 AM on May 9, 2003


a co-worker of mine has threatened to shit on his boss' keyboard when he quits. Does this mean he is closer to the monkies than I am?
posted by Birichini at 10:38 AM on May 9, 2003


Sorry. The was a waste of over $3000.
Who spends that much on a computer anyway!?
posted by linux at 10:39 AM on May 9, 2003


If you have infinite monkeys, you only need a little bit of time. One of them will have produced shakespeare's works.

If you have infinite time, you only need one monkey.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:46 AM on May 9, 2003


Only if monkeys truly type randomly, sonofsamiam. Otherwise it/they may never get there.
posted by callmejay at 10:52 AM on May 9, 2003


Infinite time or infinite monkeys, this is what happens when you send macaques to do a colobus' job.

More scientifically, as has been noted before, six monkeys and one month do not equal infinite time or monkeys. Another prerequisite of the theory, however, is that the typing must be completely random; for monkeys to be selecting letters is only a mechanism for random selection. Perhaps the monkeys select based on preference. That doesn't change the fact that given infinite time and random letter selection (by whatever means, so long as they are truly random), Shakespeare's works will have been produced.

It also boggles the mind that $3000 was spent on what amounts to be little more than a scientific in-joke.

On preview: you beat me to it, jay.
posted by The Michael The at 10:55 AM on May 9, 2003


I was upset that my tax money went towards waging wars, but this makes up for that entirely.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 10:57 AM on May 9, 2003




They're supposed to give the monkeys a typewriter, not a computer. No wonder the experiment didn't pan out.
posted by tolkhan at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2003


MetaFilter: this is what happens when you send macaques to do a colobus' job...

Of course as I'm sure you all know, two of Shakespeare's plays begin their dialogue with the letter "S," proving undeniably that they were on the right track, but a bit unsure of how to proceed... Who knows what these Noble Savages could have achieved had they been granted the Infinite Time (and I dare say, the Infinite Collaborative Assistance) of the famous saying?

(the Michael the, I demand you pay for the roll of paper towels I just had to use to get all that Diet Coke off my desk and keyboard...)
posted by JollyWanker at 11:31 AM on May 9, 2003


If that becomes an actual tagline, I'll buy you a roll of paper towels *and* a six-pack (or two-liter, if you prefer) of Diet Coke.
posted by The Michael The at 11:51 AM on May 9, 2003


People are so strange with infinity. They think it means "a really big number" without really grasping that it's not a number at all.
posted by jragon at 11:57 AM on May 9, 2003


Since they didn't use infinite monkeys it doesn't disprove the theory.

You just didn't count them all.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:00 PM on May 9, 2003


Silly...obviously the monkeys were transcribing from that rarest of manuscripts: Shakespeare's Lost Lines:

ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
Act V, Scene ii: Lines 390-404 of 475
Alexandria. CLEOPATRA's palace.

[To an asp, which she applies to her breast]

CLEOPATRA: With thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsicate
Of life at once untie: poor venomous fool
Be angry, and dispatch. O, couldst thou speak,
That I might hear thee call great Caesar ass
Unpolicied!

ASP (Petulantly): SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS asssssssSSSlssssssssssssssssjmmmmmmmmsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

Geeeze. (Asp expires. Cleo expires. Subscription to "Rome Today" expires.)

MARK ANTONY (Enters stage right): And with those hands, that g'asp'd the heaviest club, Subdue my worthiest self. The witch shall die: To the young Roman boy she hath sold me, and I fall Under this plot; she dies for't.

Eros, ho! or, if you will, Ho of Eros!

Well, aint' that about nothing...I roll to get my props, and find, forsooth, Yon Hoochie Mamma has already popped a cap her own asp!

Damn. (Scene ends.)
posted by Dunvegan at 12:09 PM on May 9, 2003


I hereby nominate Dunvegan for MeFi Monkey.
posted by divrsional at 12:31 PM on May 9, 2003


I appears to only take one monkey to write a weblog.
posted by machaus at 12:36 PM on May 9, 2003


Dunvegan: Thank you! 'Yon Hoochie Mama' has made my Friday.
posted by ao4047 at 12:38 PM on May 9, 2003


People are so strange with infinity. They think it means "a really big number"

Yeah, like six.
posted by soyjoy at 12:40 PM on May 9, 2003


People are so strange with infinity. They think it means "a really big number" without really grasping that it's not a number at all.

you're right that it would be strange to confuse infinity with any number, even 6 billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion trillion trillion trillion bazillion googol, but you have to admit it's especially strange to confuse it with six.
posted by mdn at 12:41 PM on May 9, 2003


oop. that's what I get for adding that extra "billion"...
posted by mdn at 12:43 PM on May 9, 2003


They should have used that $2000 computer to read this thread.
posted by scarabic at 12:50 PM on May 9, 2003


ah dammit. The nutters.org link is broken now.

summarized here
posted by scarabic at 12:55 PM on May 9, 2003


The bit about "Notes Towards the Complete Works of Shakespeare" was inspired.
posted by rdr at 1:20 PM on May 9, 2003


My theory is that it would take far fewer monkeys and much less time to produce the Skinhead Hamlet.
posted by MrBaliHai at 1:25 PM on May 9, 2003


his is what happens when you send macaques to do a colobus' job

Just because this particular group of monkeys are fuckups doesn't mean other monkeys couldn't have done it. Like this one.

Besides, by the end of the experiment "their output slightly improved, with the letters A, J, L and M also appearing." They were just getting started!
posted by kirkaracha at 1:46 PM on May 9, 2003


People are so strange with infinity. They think it means "a really big number" without really grasping that it's not a number at all.

I think the main reason people visualize it as such is because usually when being taught infinity, it is easiest to allow people to grasp the concept by considering infinity as an incredibly "large number."

Furthermore, in mathematics and physics a really large number can sometimes be thought of as effectively infinity for certain problems.
posted by mckayc at 2:55 PM on May 9, 2003


the infinite time theory doesn't actually work since you'd need, granted only one, but still, an immortal monkey.
posted by syn at 2:58 PM on May 9, 2003


The same idea can be applied to a script that randomly selects letters, given enough time, it will produce the works of Shakespeare as well.

But its just an abstract concept, like the sound of one hand clapping or the tree in the woods that makes no sound. Its a philosophical construct intended to initiate thought since its impossible to have infinite anything.

But it gives hope to hacks like me who like to think we're a step up from the monkeys (by the way, what if they tried with another species of monkey?) in terms of my ability to translate my thoughts to paper. The thought train looks like this. if monkeys can write Shakespeare, in theory, then I should be able to write something reasonably decent. And, given infinite time, I will write something worthwhile one of these days.

Or not.
posted by fenriq at 3:33 PM on May 9, 2003




Sounds to me like they got a good start on a Joan Rivers or Danielle Steele novel, though.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2003


People are so strange with infinity. They think it means "a really big number" without really grasping that it's not a number at all.

A physics professor at my college once said: "we may approximate 10 by infinity."

Also, while infinity is not a number, there are infinite (cardinal) numbers. (1, 2, 3, ... are examples of cardinal numbers.)
posted by epimorph at 7:02 PM on May 9, 2003


How did I know that this bullshit was inspired by John Berger, my ex-step-grandad?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:59 PM on May 9, 2003


42.
posted by joedan at 9:28 PM on May 9, 2003


Just remember, kids: If an infinite number of rednecks shot at an infinite number of street signs with shotguns, they would eventually recreate the works of Shakespeare in Braille.
posted by eriko at 10:08 PM on May 9, 2003


actualy you would only need either an infinite number of monkies or an infinite amount of time.



Also, you can get by with a finite number of monkies and time as well.
posted by delmoi at 11:38 PM on May 9, 2003


Not only will the God monkeys type the collective works of Shakespeare in their eternal reign of blind literary terror, but they will produce them over and over an infinite amount of times. they will produce them an infinite amount of times in every possible order. They will produce them all in the same order that shakespeare wrote them...an infinite amount of times. They will produce them all in the opposite order shakespeare wrote them... an infinite amount of times. They will produce them translated in every known human language...an infinite amount of times. They will produce them all but interrupt Hamlet at the 3456 letter, produce everything that has ever been written by humanity, in the order that humans originally wrote it, and than pick up at the 3457th letter where they originally left off...an infinite amount of times. The will also do all that, but when they get to this sentence they will not put a period at the end of it...an infinite amount of times.

Infinity, you truly are something special.
posted by dgaicun at 3:08 AM on May 10, 2003


arguably, it only took one monkey from 1564-1616.
posted by juv3nal at 3:13 AM on May 10, 2003


So when do we get to lock a cat in a box with a machine that will let it live, or not, according to the whims of some not-entirely-certain-to-decay radioactive particle? 'Cause that's where the real action is, bay-bee.
posted by arto at 3:25 AM on May 10, 2003


if we had an infinite number of shakespeares and an infinite number of typewriters - would they produce planet of the apes ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:30 AM on May 10, 2003


Only if they were typing at random, sarge.
posted by The Michael The at 4:41 AM on May 10, 2003


dgaicun, it gets better: They'll also reproduce all the stuff Shakespeare would have written if he'd gotten around to it, and all the stuff we lost forever to the fire in the famous library of Alexandria as well.

Hmmm, maybe we ought to get crackin' on this project. I'd like to read more Aristophanes.
posted by alumshubby at 5:55 AM on May 10, 2003


Man, the overtime payments are going to be murder.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:25 AM on May 10, 2003


Heh, maybe that's the purpose of the universe, somebody lost some info and runs experiments to recover it.
posted by MzB at 7:36 AM on May 10, 2003


Given an almost infinite number of humans populating an almost infinite number of nearly identical planets, will they always exhibit [ almost infinite but similar ] permutations of the same range of dismal behaviors?
posted by troutfishing at 8:04 AM on May 10, 2003


the infinite time theory doesn't actually work since you'd need, granted only one, but still, an immortal monkey.

no, just one capable of reproducing itself before it dies. So you'd need an unending species of some kind. Of course, it's true it doesn't "actually work" since for something to actually work, it has to be completed in some way, have a limit, which infinity by definition does not. The problem isn't that monkeys die but that nothing can experience "infinity".
posted by mdn at 9:29 AM on May 10, 2003


Actually, it could prove serve as evidence disproving the idea of infinite monkeys and infinite time. If it shows that monkeys, for whatever reason, will always type an S at a sufficiently high rate, it means that no matter how many monkeys are doing it, over whatever length of time, they will never produce Shakespeare.

A million monkeys typing for a thousand years is just as likey to type my name as one monkey typing for ten minutes. If they only press F.

But of course, this experiment doesn't show that, either. It is an interesting question to wonder why they would have conitnually returned to the same key on the keyboard.
posted by obfusciatrist at 9:31 AM on May 10, 2003


Six monkeys. A few weeks. Not very scientific.

If this were at all true, it would mean that eventually the number pi would hammer out the works of Shakespeare, numerically speaking. If you were to give each letter a corresponding numerical equivalent, then do a search in pi, in theory eventually you'd find the complete works of Shakespeare, and that's simply not gonna happen. Not IN the order he wrote it. Certainly, eventually you'd find all of Shakespeare in there.

The infinite number of monkeys pounding on a typewriter WOULD eventually churn out everything Shakespeare ever wrote but it would not necessarily be in the same order. They only had six monkeys working on it for a short time and already they've churned out practically every "S" ever in a Shakespeare play. They only have twenty-five letters to go. Granted, a human being would have to come along and 'edit' the monkey's work, putting all the letters in the right order, but eventually we'd learn that infinity is not required.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:05 AM on May 10, 2003


ZachsMind, of course you'd find it in the order he wrote it. Pi is an irrational number.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 10:33 AM on May 10, 2003


and that's simply not gonna happen.

That's the fun of infinity - eventually it theoretically would. Can you believe we'd find 867 5309 in Pi if we looked far enough? What about 2015251518141520201525 (to be or not to be)? So if we really have a completely unlimited supply of randomly placed numbers at our disposal, why not a much larger string that could be translated by some code into a play?
posted by mdn at 11:02 AM on May 10, 2003


well i for one ain't holdin' mah breath waitin fer it ta be foun'.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:07 PM on May 10, 2003


given that holding one's breath for an infinity of time is absolutely beyond possibility, I support your decision.
posted by mdn at 1:09 PM on May 10, 2003


Well I do know that Microsoft hire a finite bunch of monkeys over a finite amount of time to make crap OS software.
posted by SpaceCadet at 2:23 PM on May 10, 2003


The infinite number of monkeys pounding on a typewriter WOULD eventually churn out everything Shakespeare ever wrote but it would not necessarily be in the same order.

Yes, it necessarily would be. There are 104 keys on my current keyboard. My odds of hitting the letter 'H' at random are 104 to 1. My odds of spelling the word 'Hello' at random is 104 x 104 x 104 x 104 x 104 = 12166529024....about twelve billion to one. Pretty low odds, especially if you've got one shot to make it happen; but if you were given six trillion tries, your odds certainly start looking rosier. Sort of like how you would have a better shot at flipping heads on a coin twice in a row if you were allowed to flip it 100 times to meet that goal instead of four. But if you are given an infinite amount of tries all of your odds are effectively reduced to one. If it takes an average of six trillion tries to randomly spell "hello", then you are now given an infinite amount of six trillions where that scenario would play itself over and over again. Even though the odds of reproducing a properly spaced and well punctuated Shakespeare are something much more intimidating than "hello" (perhaps 1041,500,000ish if we did a character count) that shouldn't change how those odds look from the vantage point of infinity.
posted by dgaicun at 3:52 PM on May 10, 2003


...about twelve billion to one. Pretty low odds, especially if you've got one shot to make it happen...

Low odds indeed... yet you managed to do it! Hello back atcha now. :*)
posted by five fresh fish at 4:44 PM on May 10, 2003


I know I'm writing the obvious but I write it anyway...

Given any random process you will eventually produce a given text in a finite amount of time. If a process never produces the text, then the process is (by the definition of random) not truly random. I can't predict how long I'll have to run the process but I can know that the process will produce the text eventually.

If you want to search the first few billions digits of pi for a string look at
pi search.
posted by rdr at 4:44 PM on May 10, 2003


thanks rdr.

Pi-Search Result:

search string = "hello"
25-bit binary equivalent = 0100000101011000110001111

search string found at binary index = 2474120396
binary pi : 0011001101000001010110001100011110000100101110111110010000010101
binary string: 0100000101011000110001111
character pi : fctnx.zl-rdsqyshelloae-,pj-m;ntycwvjdd
character string: hello

posted by MzB at 5:05 PM on May 10, 2003


heh, my user name position is:
search string = "mzb"
search string found at binary index = 1294854396


why metafilter is so special :)
search string = "metafilter"
string does not occur in first 4 billion binary digits of pi

posted by MzB at 5:09 PM on May 10, 2003


index = 273685476
c_em-visasct_five_crqz.yjxogh-ngifkbvo

index = 574708300
zlgzlfvjrwndyzjfresh__zr-,vxk.zh:mrkty

index = 3872467932
bpaosun,,hbdh.g:fcfish__iurnl;t_:fdcin

index = 1192204002
,dlq:kidvsp:pfffish_lq;liw:oscno_vr:hf

search string = "metafilter"
50-bit binary equivalent = 01101001011010000001001100100101100101000010110010
string does not occur in first 4 billion binary digits of pi

posted by five fresh fish at 7:57 PM on May 10, 2003


I also note that "shakespeare" is not in this area of pi...
posted by five fresh fish at 7:58 PM on May 10, 2003


This is a great discussion, but we're missing one of the possible permutations inherent - though buried, I'll admit - in the original selection of monkeys-at-typewriters as the randomizing agent (juv3nal hinted at it): That with infinite time the monkeys could not just happen to hit the keys but evolve to the point of intentionally typing the complete works of Shakespeare, even without realizing that Shakespeare had already done it. e.g.

- sSsSSSSSSssS
- ssssosoosososo so
(what the-! hey, words! what a great idea!)
- some
- something
- something is rotten
- something is rotten in the state of Denmark
(hmmmm. I'll need a few more lines before that to set it up...lessee...)
- "Whose there?"...

Far-fetched? Yeah - but remember, we've got an infinite amount of time...
posted by soyjoy at 10:33 PM on May 10, 2003


search string = "moo,moo"
35-bit binary equivalent = 01101011110111111100011010111101111

search string found at binary index = 2633327345
binary pi : 0110011101101011110111111100011010111101111001111011111110100000
binary string: 01101011110111111100011010111101111
character pi : uwoqfcgarluhgpsgmoo,moogw;peicw.ybomix
character string: moo,moo

posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:47 AM on May 11, 2003


Another note on the "monkeys probably aren't sufficiently random" theme: Because of the peculiar history of the QWERTY keyboard, many words are produced with awkward combinations of keys -- it is possible that a significant number of necessary words simply would never be typed by pseudorandom monkey-typing at all simply because they are neurologically and physiologically disinclined to do so.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:50 AM on May 11, 2003


soyjoy - if you're talking about immortal monkeys, then they wouldn't evolve. If they're immortal, they're remaining themselves forever, and that means they'd never have the mechanical ability in their brains to deliberately make the works of Shakespeare. They'd do it accidently.
You can have an infinite range of possibilities without having every possibility - for instance, there are an infinite range of even numbers but none of them are 3. Everything possible will happen with the monkey, but not impossible things.
I just thought - the infinite monkeys will at some point actually get together and (accidently) perform all the works of shakespeare in order, in rough monkey howls.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:53 AM on May 11, 2003


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