Friday, June 06, 2008

One day in the Multiverse

"Mercutio, look at this!," Troilus says as he hands him a sheaf of papers.

"What is it?"

"Just look at them."

Mercutio takes the papers from Troilus's hands, crumpled pages with words messily typed using an old Smith-Corona, smudged, soiled and greasy in places. He reads.
To be, or not to be: that is the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
"What the hell is this?," Mercutio asks.

Troilus smiles. "Ive got lots of those. Pages and pages of them," he says. "Some of them full of more of that, others with but a single line. They look like poems, sonnets, parts of plays, and all in some sort of old form of English. Beautiful, eh?"

Mercutio takes another page. This one's rather smelly, but he could read the writing, a single line of text. It said,
A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse! : King Richard III.
"Where did you get these?"

Troilus's grin grew wider. "You'll never guess."

"Troilus, I have no time for games. Where'd you get these?"

"A monkey wrote them."

"A... monkey?"

"A monkey. You remember I told you about my new job at the zoo, right? Taking care of some animals? Well there's this one monkey there whose mate just died and she seemed lonely so I gave her stuff to do. Toys and stuff, you know, to occupy her time, and we had this old typewriter in the office no one was using so I thought, why not, right? I gave her the typewriter and a whole lot of scratch paper from the waste paper bin, and taught her how to insert paper and next thing I knew she was banging away at the keyboard. I didnt pay her no mind at first, but she kept at it for hours just banging away. She was using a lot of paper but I didnt mind. It seemed to cheer her up. So one day I gave her a fresh batch of paper from the bin and I looked and there they were. Pages of stuff."

"A monkey did this?"


"On a typewriter."

"On a typewriter, yes."

Mercutio puts a hand on his friend's shoulders. "Troilus, pal, buddy?... Are you fuckin' NUTS? A monkey couldnt have done this!"

"But she did! I saw her do it."

"Pfsh. Troilus...". Mercutio picks up another soiled piece of paper and reads, "Friends, Romans, Countryman, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones... You expect me to believe this was written by a monkey?"

"Im telling you they were. I saw it."

"So youre asking me to believe that you're taking care of a fucking smart monkey, an intelligent monkey, a muthfuckin' super genius monkey?"

"No. She's pretty normal, I gather. Just a normal, everyday zoo monkey. She didnt seem like she knew what she was doing. Wasnt even looking at the keyboard or paper. She was just banging away, and somehow that stuff came out."

"Do you know what youre saying? Do you goddamn know what the odds for those are?"

"Im telling you what happened. I didnt bother to get my calculator and calculate the odds that a monkey, banging away at a typewriter, would come up with something like this. All Im telling you is the monkey did it. Besides, odds? What are those? All odds are 50-50. Either something happens or it doesnt. And this happened."

Mercutio sighed. "Are there any more of these?"

"Yes there's more, but, well, the other stuff is just junk."


"Yes. What you'd expect a monkey at a typewriter would come up with. Here, take a look. She did this this morning." Troilus hands him a piece of paper from his pocket.

Mercutio looks at it and reads. Or tries to. There's nothing. Written on the piece of paper was
jiqe rijo2iir0=2i0t
=if0oir3pti=-o4t[-00[-4t004m go0[2ri0=24iot 0-3jpbefj dpswo ]r, ofp[erw[p ogc3wo]r3o[terhg\\ukj\u6[]k[]\87\[p870\

"Nothing like these?" Mercutio motions to the stack of poetry.

"I checked. All the others are just gibberish."

"Mercutio, my friend, it's clear that someone at the zoo has been playing with you. There is just no way that a monkey at a typewriter can write this. That's the only explanation. Uh-uh, let me finish. Im sure you think the monkey did this, but think about it for a moment. This is a monkey. A monkey. Say it."

"A monkey."

"This is..."

"This is a monkey."

"And monkeys are...?"

"Monkeys are stupid."

"So this thing...?"

"Probably didnt happen."

"Right. Hell of trick though. If it could fool you. You're a pretty smart lad."

"Thanks, Mercutio."

"Come on, I'll buy you a drink. So, this new job of yours, what else do you take care of?"

"Unicorns. Pink ones. But they drive me bonkers. You know how sometimes they turn invisible?"


cvj said...

What makes the the shift from random gibberish to a passage from Shakespeare look unnatural is the unlikely transition from high entropy to low entropy.

(In Judy Ann Santos' terms, it's as if the ice that you bought from 7-11, instead of melting, became even more frozen.)

From what i read, it was Boltzmann who proposed explaining the existence of the Universe as a random fluctuation from high to low entropy. His argument was refuted here by introducing the entity called Boltzmann's Brain.

Jego said...

Entropy cannot apply to the whole universe, only to 'pockets' within it. At the time of the big bang, that tiny 'speck' was the universe. It had as much energy in it as it does now. Therefore low entropy to high entropy doesnt apply to the entire universe.

Here's something radical from quantum theory: before we became conscious of it, the universe didnt exist. We caused the big bang in some sort of backward causation. How's that for solving the asymmetry of the arrow of time, eh? :-)

cvj said...

From what i understand, taking the Universe as a whole, entropy is increasing. However, there are pockets of decreasing entropy, for example, as when sunshine causes a plant to grow. Eventually, nothing can escape increasing entropy resulting in what is called the 'Heat Death' of the Universe.

cvj said...

Jeg, here's an experiment which seems to prove that at the quantum level, something is not real until it is observed.