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Virtual monkeys complete Shakespeare's works

Thursday September 29, 2011 12:28:25 PM, IANS

London: Millions of virtual monkeys punching random keys on simulated typewriters have very nearly reproduced the work of legendary poet and playwright William Shakespeare.

The virtual monkeys, created by an American programmer, have already typed up the whole of the poem "A Lover's Complaint" and are 99.99 percent of the way through the bard's complete works.

The experiment seeks to validate the theory that an infinite number of monkeys sitting at an infinite number of typewriters would reproduce the works of Shakespeare by chance.

Jesse Anderson, the project programmer, said he was inspired by an episode of "The Simpsons" which spoofs the famous problem, the Telegraph reports.

Anderson set up millions of small computer programmes, or virtual monkeys, using Amazon's SC2 cloud computing system, and programmed them to churn out random sequences of nine characters.

If the nine-letter sequence appears anywhere in one of Shakespeare's writings, it is matched against the relevant passage in a copy of the bard's complete works, and is checked off the list.

The monkeys, which started typing Aug 21, have already completed more than five trillion of the 5.5 trillion possible nine-letter combinations, but have so far only finished one whole work.

But the experiment is an imperfect reproduction of the infinite monkey theorem because it saves correct sections of text while discarding future wrong guesses, experts said.

Ian Steward, emeritus professor of mathematics at Warwick University, said that for the monkeys to type up the complete works in the correct order without mistakes would take much longer than the age of the universe.




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