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Virtual monkeys typing Shakespeare?

Sept. 26, 2011 at 7:10 PM   |   Comments

LONDON, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Virtual monkeys randomly hitting keys on virtual typewriters are close to reproducing the works of Shakespeare, a U.S. computer programmer says.

Jesse Anderson said he initiated the program to test the oft-repeated theory that an infinite number of monkeys sitting at an infinite number of typewriters would eventually reproduce the works of Shakespeare by chance, Britain's The Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

Anderson, a software developer from Nevada, started millions of small computer programs -- his "virtual monkeys" -- on a cloud computing system, and set them to creating random sequences of nine characters.

If a sequence appeared anywhere in one of Shakespeare's works, it was matched against the relevant passage and checked off the list.

The "monkeys" have already created all the words in the poem A Lover's Complaint and are 99.99 percent of the way through Shakespeare's complete works, Anderson said.

The experiment doesn't actually test the infinite monkey theorem because it saves correct sections of text while discarding all wrong guesses, experts said.

For the monkeys to type up the complete works with all words in correct order without mistakes would take much longer than the age of the universe, said Ian Steward, a professor of mathematics at Warwick University.

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