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Definition of an Infinite-Monkey Theorem

Infinite-Monkey Theorem

noun

  • the theory that if you put an infinite number of monkeys in front of typewriters, given an infinite amount of time, they will eventually duplicate one or more Shakespeare scripts.

    Last edited on Nov 10 2011. Submitted by WalterGR (via TheJargonFile) on Aug 14 2009.

notes

  • In mid-2002, researchers at Plymouth University in England actually put a working computer in a cage with six crested macaques. The monkeys proceeded to bash the machine with a rock, urinate on it, and type the letter S a lot (later, the letters A, J, L, and M also crept in). The results were published in a limited-edition book, Notes Towards The Complete Works of Shakespeare. A researcher reported:

    "They were quite interested in the screen, and they saw that when they typed a letter, something happened. There was a level of intention there."

    Last edited on May 16 2011. Submitted by WalterGR (via TheJargonFile) on Aug 14 2009.

origin

  • This theorem has been traced to the mathematician E'mile Borel in 1913, and was first popularized by the astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington. It became part of the idiom of techies via the classic SF short story "Inflexible Logic" by Russell Maloney, and many younger hackers know it through a reference in Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

    On 1 April 2000 the usage acquired its own Internet standard, RFC2795 - Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite.

    Last edited on May 16 2011. Submitted by WalterGR (via TheJargonFile) on Aug 14 2009.

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