Snap happy monkeys discover photography

Posted on July 6, 2011


Self portrait, a Sulawesi macaque takes its own photo

The Infinite Monkey Theorem suggests that if you put an infinite number of monkeys at typewriters, eventually after hitting random keys one will eventually bash out the complete script of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Some scientists believe this theory is flawed following research that was carried out in 2003, but mathematicians say the theorem is a metaphor. The probability of a non-human primate exactly typing this work is so tiny that the chance of it occurring during a period of time of the order of the age of the universe is extremely low, but not zero.

So what’s my point? Well wildlife photographer David Slater found after several days observing and snapping Sulawesi crested macaques (Macaca nigra) in the forests of Indonesia, some of the monkeys were able to take their own photographs using his unmanned camera. The shots are quite remarkable.

Wildlife photographer has the camera turned on him by his monkey subjects

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Slater said: “One of them must have accidentally knocked the camera and set it off because the sound caused a bit of a frenzy.

“At first there was a lot of grimacing with their teeth showing because it was probably the first time they had ever seen a reflection. They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button.”

Mr Slater said that at first the shutter sound scared the rest of them away but they soon came back, he added: “He must have taken hundreds of pictures by the time I got my camera back, but not very many were in focus. He obviously hadn’t worked that out yet.

“I wish I could have stayed longer as he probably would have taken a full family album.”

The rule of parsimony is to adopt the simplest reason when analysing data, so it’s fair to say most scientists are likely to say it’s probably luck or given how advanced camera equipment is, hardly surprising some of the pictures are in focus. I would have to agree, but there’s a small part of me that would like to believe something else.

I’ve just returned from a sojourn in Ireland where the Northerner and I spent a few days with our dear friends Mr D and Bodhran Queen. Lots of photos were taken, not all of them are in focus. OK we weren’t using a pro-cameras and most of the time we’d been drinking, but I think some of these images would rival even the most professional of snappers.

Simian snapper, clicking the button a self-portrait is captured

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