Posted at 12:19 PM ET, 09/26/2011

Shakespeare poem re-created by virtual monkeys


Using a real typewriter, one math professor thinks it would take “longer than the age of the universe” for monkeys to complete this task. (Helayne Seidman - For The Washington Post)
A team of virtual monkeys has re-created the text of William Shakespeare’s poem “A Lover’s Complaint,” according to the programmer who made them.

Jesse Anderson created millions of computerized monkeys that create random sequences of text, each nine characters long, he said on his Web site. The sequence is checked against all of Shakespeare’s works.

If it matches anything the Bard wrote, it’s used. If it doesn’t, it’s thrown away.

(Anderson offers a more technical explanation on his Web site.)

Anderson was inspired by the infinite monkey theorem, which states that an infinite number of the primates given limitless time can create any text by smashing their hands on a typewriter. For the record, he was also inspired by an episode of “The Simpsons.”

The monkeys are more than 99 percent of the way to finishing many of Shakespeare’s other works, according to his site.

Of course, Anderson had to put certain constraints on his project so that it could be completed in a timely manner, i.e., his lifetime.

Ian Stewart, a math professor, told the BBC that it would take “longer than the age of the universe” for monkeys to randomly type a flawless recreation of Shakespeare’s works. And it’s reasonable to theorize they would just urinate on the machines and press the “S” key over and over, as six macaques did when they were used to test the theorem in 2003.

But it seems Anderson’s not out there to change the world. He’s simply having fun while learning about new technologies.

“I think I have a sense of humor about it,” Anderson told FoxNews.com. “It’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing.”

Watch Anderson explain his project below.

By  |  12:19 PM ET, 09/26/2011

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