It was the blurst of times

The summary:

Your tax dollars at work. Well, if you’re British.

The long story:

There’s an old saw about probability that “Given enough time, a monkey and a typewriter will produce the works of Shakespeare.”

It’s a little bit of a fallacy on two counts: First, if you work the math, the likelyhood of even one of the works occurring randomly is such that it likely wouldn’t happen in the life of the universe. Second, a monkey already did it, just using quill and parchment, as typewriters weren’t invented in the 16th century.

However, public arts councils being somewhat unschooled in either probability or art, a group in the UK funded a University team for six months to see what, exactly, would happen if you did lock six macaque monkeys in a room with a typerwriter.

Predictably, they didn’t come up with the works of Shakespeare, or even Dan Brown. The results were (from the article)

“The alpha male bashed hell out of the computer with a stone and the other monkeys did little else but urinate and defecate on the keyboard. Nevertheless, the monkeys did produce the equivalent of five pages of type with a predilection for the letter S. One researcher said that proved the monkeys were not hitting the keyboard at random, so were part of the way towards literacy. Defending the expenditure, a lecturer said the filmed experiment made very stimulating and fascinating viewing and was cheaper to produce than reality TV, but there was no sign of Shakespeare.”

I’d watch it.

However, gentlemen, we do need to take a firm lesson from this. Work like this needs to get public support in the United States. It’s a matter of national security. This article, my friends, is the finest example of how America is losing its lead in screwball humor. Sure, we’ve got “Country Fried Videos” on CMT, and we do still hold presidential debates once four years, but cutting edge research like this is needed to ensure we keep our technical superiority.

Props to my buddy Christian for sending it over.

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