A experiment to investigate whether an infinite number of monkeys sat at an infinite number of typewriters would, if left alone, eventually come up with the complete works of William Shakespeare may be in its final stages.
The experiment, set up 40 years ago at various sites around the world, involves more than 100,000 monkeys, and provides work for more than 50,000 scientists, who monitor the progress of their charges. One of the monkeys, known as Jo, has, thus far, far outshone his 'fellow-typers', and is on the verge of achieving something truly remarkable.
"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves," said one of the monitors, Al Gonk, "but Jo is getting 'pretty close'. He's already completed 'Twelfth Night', 'Romeo and Juliet', and 'The Tempest', and he's a fair way into 'The Merchant of Venice'. I think he's got what it takes to go the whole way. Fingers crossed!"
The monkeys are well looked-after. They live in luxurious surroundings reminiscent of French Riviera-style hotels, complete with a swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi, poolside bars, and tyres hanging from trees. They are treated to the best nutrition science can provide, with three restaurants - Italian, Indian and French - serving a whole range of international dishes, but many care for nothing more than a couple of bananas.
The monkeys 'work' for 14 hours each and every day, but are allowed time for recreation, and, to this end, various facilities have been provided. There is a gym with all the latest exercise equipment, table tennis and badminton, a five-a-side football pitch, and even a lounge area where the monkeys can relax with a glass of orange juice and play a frame of snooker.
Head of the project, Professor Anders Heinerchristiansensen, told us:
"The subjects are well cared-for. They want for nothing. If you want to get the best out of your participants, you should make sure they are comfortable. We hope to have some good news to share with the world soon. One of our monkeys is showing huge potential. For a monkey, that is."