Some Reflections on Probabilities (2)

 

Splendid cosmos
The universe is a rather interesting place, and sometimes quite beautiful.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain)

 

A bit more from Gerald L. Schroeder, God According to God: A Scientist Discovers We’ve Been Wrong About God All Along (New York: HarperOne, 2009):

 

But so convincing is Hawking’s argument [that monkeys, given enough time, could type out a Shakespearean sonnet by sheer random chance, as an analogy to sentient life emerging by random chance from the Big Bang] that the students at Plymouth University in Britain convinced the National Arts Council to put up £2,000 (about $4,000 U.S.) to try the monkeys’ typing skill.  With that stipend they rented a monkey house at the Paignton Zoo in Devon and placed a computer keyboard inside.  The Times (May 9, 2003) reported on the results under the headline, “Much Ado, but Monkeys Fail Shakespeare Test.”  For a month, six monkeys hammered away on the keyboard.  They failed to produce a single English word.  Surprised, since the shortest word in the English language is one letter long?  Surely the monkeys must have hit an a or an I in all their efforts.  But think about it.  To make the word a, a space on each side of the letter is required.  That means typing: space, a, space.  If there are about 100 keys on the computer keyboard, neglecting the fact that the space bar is somewhat larger than the letter keys, the probability of typing space, a, space is one chance in a 100 times 100 times 100, which comes out to be one chance in a million.  Random guessing in a spelling bee is always a losing proposition.  And that is for a single-letter word.  (36)

 

There is a way that the monkeys might produce the grandeur of a sonnet and a random nature yield the wonder of life.  But it takes a leap of faith with only the vaguest of foundations upon which to base that leap.  And that is the thought that the visible universe is only one of a multitude of universes.  In a vast number of universes, say 10500, each trying to produce life, one might have succeeded.  In that huge number of universes, we would be in the one that succeeded, while the others would likely be lifeless.  Either our universe is a tiny domain, a blip, within an infinitely large universe, or there are a vast number, perhaps an infinite number (if one can combine “infinite” and “number” in the same context), of totally separate universes.  (37)

 

Posted from Laie, Oahu, Hawai’i

 

 

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