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Random Monkeys

One of my gifts this holiday season was “A Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives,” by Leonard Mlodinow. It was an outgoing gift, so I can’t read it until I get it back from the recipient, but it reminded me of one of the oldest musings in the realm of probability – the supposition that enough monkeys, given enough time, could produce Shakespeare’s works. Various people over the years have tried to reason their way to an actual estimate of the probability, but I was intrigued to read (in Wikipedia) that an experiment was conducted with actual monkeys at keyboards in 2003. Their output consisted mainly of the letter “s.” This goes to show almost nothing, I suppose, except that monkeys are not as random as a statistician might hope.