It was the Blurst of Times

A programmer in the US is using Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing system in order to prove the infinite monkey theorem. If you’re like me (and I sincerely hope you’re not), you’ve heard of this not because you have a deep love for and understanding of probability theory but because of references from The Simpsons. I may have heard it in school, but I think even the teacher was referring to the same epsidoe, “Last Exit to Springfield” – arguably the greatest episode – in which Burns has a thousand Monkey’s working on a thousand typewriters. Jesse Anderson, the US programmer, is using a computer model to mimic the experiment – one can imagine the cost and perhaps outrage of animal rights groups if this test were actually conducted – and with some constraints will actually be able to finish the entire works of Shakespeare. A random sequence of nine characters is created and checked against all the texts to see if there is a match, otherwise it is discarded. Each match is saved until all of the works have been recreated. Without this restraint, if each work had to be created in it’s entirety, it would take, well, a long time. There are 5.5 trillion different combinations of any nine characters from the English alphabet. Burn’s monkey came up with the line “It was the best of time, it was the blurst of times”, a reference to A Tale of Two Cities (not Shakespeare). A zoo in the UK put a keyboard in the cage with six crested macaques who produced five pages of the letter “S” and broke the keyboard – still better than the writing in seasons 4, 5 and 6 of Lost. Enjoy the Simpsons clip.

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