How are there random English words?

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  para-potatoes 1 year ago.

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  • #8652 Reply

    Tiffany Lin

    Sorry, this might be a bit tricky to explain, but I was wondering how it is even possible that some random pages in these books will be filled with English words. For instance, a book might have opening pages filled with nothing but gibberish, incomprehensible strings of letters; but then on page 98, all of a sudden the words on the page are legitimate words. They might not make sense as sentences, for certain, but they are words.

    How can page 97 of a book be nothing but strings of letters and punctuation, but page 98 be an assortment of actual words? I suppose this might stem from my utter lack of understanding in how this library works – and this incomprehension is not from lack of trying – but can anyone explain this phenomenon to me?

    #8653 Reply

    para-potatoes

    If you’re wondering why some pages have loads of English words on them to begin with, that’s one of the options you get when you enter a search query: your query surrounded by real words. Keep reading for the other explanation.

    This website contains every possible combination of letters, period, space, and comma on a 3200-character page. This means there are 29^3200 (29 to the power of 3200) distinct pages in the Library. Almost all of these pages are completely indecipherable strings of letters that have no English meaning. However, a few of them contain normal words.

    Since the position of each page in the Library is random (in the sense that there’s no obvious pattern to it; an algorithm was used to place them, but they are in no intelligible order), any given page could have literally any of the 29^3200 letter/character combinations. There is nothing that says just because one page has words that the others must too. They are, in terms of human understanding, random, and entirely independent of each other.

    #8654 Reply

    Tiffany Lin

    Thank you for that reply! But now I have a slightly different question, which is about the search query options.

    What exactly does it mean when it offers you those options? Does this mean that somewhere in the Babel library, there is my searched sentence surrounded by gibberish, and then elsewhere that same sentence surrounded by English words?

    For that page, is the gibberish somehow converted into recognizable English words? Or was it just by pure chance that the whole page was made up of actual words?

    And with the option to see your searched sentence on a page, with nothing else beside it, does that simply mean that the algorithm finds the page it was supposed to be on, but deletes the surrounding text?

    #8698 Reply

    para-potatoes

    “What exactly does it mean when it offers you those options? Does this mean that somewhere in the Babel library, there is my searched sentence surrounded by gibberish, and then elsewhere that same sentence surrounded by English words?”

    It means exactly that. Correct.

    “For that page, is the gibberish somehow converted into recognizable English words? Or was it just by pure chance that the whole page was made up of actual words?”

    I don’t know, but I’d guess the page gets generated/found (I’m not sure if there’s a meaningful difference) with the English words only. Otherwise, it’d need to be generated twice, which is a weirdly inefficient way to handle it.

    “And with the option to see your searched sentence on a page, with nothing else beside it, does that simply mean that the algorithm finds the page it was supposed to be on, but deletes the surrounding text?”

    I wouldn’t think so; there is at least one page for each position in the Library, so there’s a page containing your search query plus blank space somewhere.

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