THE THEORY that monkeys are capable of typing out the entire works of Shakespeare is being put to the test in a virtual experiment.
Sadly no monkeys are involved in the experiment, which was set up by US programmer Jesse Anderson and uses virtual monkeys sitting on Amazon's EC2 cloud computing system via a home PC. Rather boringly, if you like monkeys, the test was established to get to know the Hadoop programming tool better and put Amazon's web services to the test.
Of course real monkeys sitting on real servers in the Amazon estate would have explained some of the firm's more recent outages, but would be unlikely to lead to anything Shakespearean. It might however, have led to poo flinging and a lot of mischief letters of complaint to zoos, other monkeys, Amazon, Jesse Anderson and David Attenborough,
According to the BBC, there are a few million virtual monkeys contributing to the recreation of Shakespeare's works, and their work is 99.990 per cent complete. The first single work to be completed was the poem "A Lover's Complaint", but we reckon that somewhere along the line the monkeys came up with "Romeo and Banana" and "A Banana's Tale", for example.
Anderson's virtual monkeys are small computer programs uploaded to Amazon servers, which regularly pump out random sequences of text consisting of up to nine characters. Another program compares each text string with all the words in Shakespeare's works and keeps the ones that match.
The project was launched on 21 August and with each day of virtual monkey keyboard mashing processing cost $19.20 (£12.40), it has now been moved from Amazon's servers to a home PC to cut the cost as well as speed up text string generation. No wonder.
Apparently, this experiment has been attempted before. Wikipedia points to a 2003 project that used computer programs to simulate monkeys randomly typing, however with less success.
Other experiments have been less successful. In 2003, Paignton Zoo put a keyboard connected to a PC into the cage of six crested macaques. After a month the monkeys had produced five pages of the letter "S" and had broken the keyboard.
Elsewhere rumours that monkeys have been writing political thrillers, scandal biographies, television comedies and falling-Hollywood star vehicles for the cinema for years are unfounded.
An expert, yeah, apparently there are experts for this sort of thing, told the BBC that it was likely that other books would be completed by the virtual monkeys before the Shakespeare canon was completed. We imagine that the works of Jeffrey Archer were some of the first produced by the virtual keyboards. µ
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