a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|There is a famous example of probability which (in one of its many
forms) states that six chimpanzees randomly typing at six typewriters
would eventually reproduce all of the books in the British museum. In
this story, six chimps begin doing exactly that -- without producing
any errors or gibberish. The mathematician feels obligated to be a
vigilante and defend the laws of probability (which he says take
everything into account...including his own actions) by killing the
apes before they get too far. |
Reprinted in Fantasia Mathematica.
Maloney uses no explicit math but he understands far better than engineers at NASA that the improbable will eventually occur. I first read this as a teen-ager and still pick it up now, decades later.
As a card-carrying cynic, I really appreciated this story. The fact that I read it when I was still at the impressionable point in my life probably affected my weltanschaung (i.e. scarred me for life!). Great story, well written; I especially liked the end as the last monkey starts typing the opening to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" as he dies.
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(Maintained by Alex Kasman,
College of Charleston)