A team of monkeys finally written the complete works of Shakespeare!
It’s the great intellectual hypothesis that, given enough time, a monkey with a typewriter would reproduce the complete works of Shakespeare.
Mathematicians have created an army of millions of computerized monkeys, bashing away at virtual typewriters.
The software apes type random prose – in an attempt to mimic real primates – and a computer program compares the trillions of lines of gibberish they produce with the output of the 16th-century Bard.
Any letters matching small portions of Shakespeare’s writing are plucked out and formed into his plays, poems or sonnets.
Scientists say their digital monkeys have recreated 99.99 per cent of Shakespeare’s works – although clearly not typed in order.
The first fully completed piece was the poem A Lover’s Complaint.
The concept, known as the infinite monkey theorem, can be traced back more than 2,000 years to the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
It is based on the theories of probability and the suggestion that any simple action repeated enough times can eventually lead to a complex result, however unlikely.
The monkey-generating software has been designed by U.S. computer programmer Jesse Anderson.
To make the task easier, he has removed all punctuation and the space bar after starting the project on August 21 using Amazon’s cloud computing service.
Mathematicians say using the computer program to pluck out the details and removing punctuation will make the task easier, otherwise it would be nearly impossible.
Dr Ian Stewart, emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick, suggests it would take the age of the universe – estimated at around 13 billion to 14 billion years – for monkeys to randomly produce a flawless recreation of the 3,695,990 characters in Shakespeare’s works.
And who can blame them for needing all that time? After all, there are 5.5 trillion combinations of any nine letters from the English alphabet, according to mathematicians.
That means mistakes are an inevitability.
‘There would be untold numbers of attempts with one character wrong; even more with two wrong, and so on,’ Dr Stewart said. ‘Almost all other books, being shorter, would appear before Shakespeare did.’
An experiment that was conducted in 2003 highlights just how improbable the idea is.
Known as The Monkey Shakespeare Simulator, it set a huge virtual monkey population to work to see how long it would take to reproduce one of the Bard’s plays – and the answer was a very big number indeed.
In fact, they never got as far as producing a complete play, just several short lines, the longest of which matched Henry IV, Part 2.
The line was ‘Rumour. Open your ears’ –and it took a mere 2,737,850 million billion billion billion monkey years to appear.
Along the way the simulated simians conjured up ‘Theseus. Now faire’ which matches part of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – ‘…us. Now Faire Hippolita’ and they also bashed out ‘Poet. Good day Sir’, which matched part of Timon of Athens – ‘Poet. Good day Sir Pain’.
A slightly cruder version of the experiment also ran in 2003 at Paignton Zoo, Devon.
Researchers from the University of Plymouth left a computer keyboard in an enclosure of six macaques for a month to test the theory.
They produced five pages of mainly the letter S, before attacking the keyboard and relieving themselves over it.