The Infinite Monkey Theorem

On today’s Creation Moments Minute, we’ll see if an infinite number of monkeys really could type out a Shakespeare play!

If an infinite number of monkeys sat down at an infinite number of typewriters, eventually one of these monkeys would type Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. At least that’s what French mathematician Émile Borel proposed in his infinite monkey theorem – an idea that some scientists use to assert that given enough time, even evolution can happen.

Now, if anyone ever tosses the infinite monkey theorem in your direction, here’s what to do. Point out that a monkey has a one in twenty-six chance of typing the first letter correctly. Getting the second letter correct sees the probability rise to 1 in 676. After just the first 15 letters of Hamlet, the chance of getting the next letter right is one in thousands of trillions! Clearly, the infinite monkey theorem has done nothing but make monkeys out of those who still believe it!

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For Creation Moments Minute, I’m Darren Marlar.

Ref: R. Arp, “Infinite Monkey Theorem,” 1001 Ideas that Changed the Way We Think (Atria Books, 2013), p. 643.