An experiment??

Consider this- imagine the possibilities of what could be expressed on a single page of text. Such a page of text could possibly express:

  • an infinitely true and perfectly expressed and summarised formulation of the meaning of life;
  • a true and clear explanation of Trinity, the problem of evil, etc.
  • the true biography of everyone who ever lived,
  • the best poem every written,
  • the secret name of God (if you believe in that kind of thing)
  • a description of the scientific principle for a time machine, or cold fusion generator, a cure for cancer, or any number of things not yet invented.

Now, given the finitude of letters and other standard characters (puncutation marks, digits, etc.) it is obvious that the number of combinations making a single typed page is also finite. Maybe some mathematically minded person could work it out, as to hoe many combinations there could be.

So, this is my proposed experiment- set up a computer to type at random letters, characters, punction and spaces. This will produce a finite number of typed sheets. Read through each typed sheet to find the sheet which contains every conceivable truth.

Would it work?

No, it would not.

The earth would fall into the sun (or the sun would go cold) long before you paged through all of the gobbledygook that would compose 99.9999 percent of those typed pages.

Informational entropy at it’s purest.


Someone will say, it could simply be boiled down to very few words.

God is love

Eventually, sure, why not? Statistically speaking, there is an almost zero chance of this ever happening, but that remote chance is still there.

Not everything can be described in one typed page!

Assuming standard borders, using Times New Roman font at a 12 pt font size, about 3000 characters can be typed on a page. There are 26 letters, 32 symbols, and 10 numbers on a standard American keyboard. Since characters are repeatable, it’s a N^M type formula (N is the number of characters per page and M is the number of characters).

Thus: 2.8x10[sup]236[/sup] possible combinations of characters on a page.

The estimated total number of particles in the observable universe is 10[sup]80[/sup] and the number of seconds elapsed since the big bang is roughly 4.6x10[sup]17[/sup], I would say that it would be impossible to ever do so.

Cool. Absolutely anything you can write on the paper is what you think you are. The paper, blank or written upon, is what you actually are in essence.

Well there is the problem…you just need smaller font! :smiley:

Or a high-speed printer.

Nope. Pretty sure it would not work.

The amount of time needed to produce meaningful sentences could be dramatically reduced through adding grammatical constraints to the text strings that are generated. But that still isn’t practical.

In other words, it’s something similar to the “library” described in…?

It might be possible in some language, but probably not English. If we consider a page to have ~4000 characters (obviously this depends on font size,) then we can calculate things. There would be 36^(4000) possible combinations of characters if we restrict ourselves to only 10 symbols. Obviously, only a tiny, tiny fraction of those combinations will be meaningful. However, if we tried to generate all possible combinations, we would be effectively unable to do so. If every atom in the universe generated 100 pages / second since the beginning of the universe, we would not have even generated 0.01% of the pages yet.

If we say that a page is comprised of 250 words, and that there are 600,000 words in the English language, then there would be 600,000^250 possible combinations. That number is significantly smaller than the number of characters, however we would still be unable to generate all possible combinations.

After reading this, I realized that I made an error in my calculation on my post: I put 3000^68 which gives ~10[sup]236[/sup] compared to the value of ~10[sup]5400[/sup] for 68^3000.

So, these numbers are to try EVERY combination right? But statistically speaking, we might get it “right” after only 5 tries for example. So… There is still the very remote possibility that we could achieve this once in the lifetime of the universe, not at all, or 5 times for all we know. It’s nice to know the numbers though! Thanks for doing the math!

Statistically speaking, I think our time is better spent. Not only is the possibility astronomically remote but if you did end up with something useful on paper than how do you recognize it from the rest of the overwhelming amount of garbage that this process would produce? How would you go about investigating the claims this process produces (for the few that may appear coherent)?

The number 10[sup]5400[/sup] represents (roughly) the possible combinations of 68 characters available on a sheet of 216 x 280 (mm) piece of paper that contains about 3000 total possible characters. It is possible that the first sheet of paper has the best poem ever written, for example (some of the other examples Qoeleth gave I do not believe could fit on a single sheet of paper as he claims).

If Qoeleth had started this program at the beginning of time 14.6 billion years ago,
[list]*]only about 10[sup]17[/sup] pages would be written at one page per second (pps)
*]about 10[sup]17[/sup] pages would be written at 100 pps
*]about 10[sup]23[/sup] pages would be written at 1,000,000 pps
*]and so on[/list]

Clearly, in order to write 10[sup]5400[/sup] pages in the time of the universe, one would need to spit out 10[sup]5383[/sup] pages per second. Quite impossible.

OK- let’s me propose a modification. We know that great, transcendental and world-changing truths may be expressed in just ONE life of text “God is Love”, “e=mc^2”, “Blessed are the poor”, etc. Now, assuming the best possible summary, the heart of any truth could be summarised to a one life statement.

Now, I count 80 character a line. If there are 26 character, 32 symbols, 10 numbers- let’s say a total number of 82- will it be 80^82?

But this seems to exceed the total number of particles in the Universe already, quite radically?

So, there are many more possible lines of text, than there are particles in the universe?

In fact, would it be true to say that if the number of particles in the universe is 10^80, then the number of possible 10 character combinations (“God is love” is already 11 characters!), would approximately equal the number of particles in the universe?

Does this also mean, that any line of text I (or anybody else) writes, is virtually infinitely improbable- or more improable than anything in the Universe?

26+32+10=68, so 68[sup]80[/sup]~10[sup]146[/sup] which is more than the number of atoms in the observable universe.
Using 11 characters in the phrase “God is love” (excluding quotes, obviously), there’s a total of 68[sup]11[/sup]~10[sup]20[/sup]. You still would not be able to write this in the total life-time of the universe, assuming a one-second-per-trial basis.

The problem with using random placement of characters is that there are more chances of gibberish than there are chances coherent words. There is only one way to write “the” but there are 3[sup]68[/sup]~10[sup]32[/sup] different combinations of three characters (3[sup]26[/sup]~10[sup]12[/sup] for letters only)! What you write is not random. Nor is what anyone else writes. It comes from structured syntax and known spelling.

You may not comprehend the enormity of these numbers. What you have proposed is less likely than winning a lottery every second for the duration of the universe.

You may not comprehend the enormity of these numbers. What you have proposed is less likely than winning a lottery every second for the duration of the universe. Indeed, I suspect it is about as likely as leaving a cold glass of lemonade on your porch in the summer and returning to find it colder than you left it.

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