Friday, 8 February 2008

A very geeky thought-experiment

Do you remember these fellas?

The Monkey Army

Well, back when they were being given away with boxes of PG Tips, the NBM some people seemed to think that five monkeys might be too many monkeys for one small flat. Discussions ensued; discussions along the lines of how many monkeys constituted too many monkeys; discussions where a proposed ‘NO MORE MONKEYS’ rule was debated. Anyhoo, suffice to say that the monkeys stayed, but their number was not added to.

But then, the other day, I read how many free monkey friends PG Tips gave away in total: it was 2.3 million. I’ll repeat that: TWO POINT THREE MILLION. Let’s all just take a moment to imagine 2.3 million monkeys, shall we?

........ it’s a beautiful thought, I know. But actually quite difficult to visualise.

This, for example, is only about 230 monkeys:

A fraction of 2.3 million (0.01%, to be precise).

2.3 million monkeys seemed like a fabulous, wonderful concept... but the concept was just not enough for me. There were two things that I really wanted to know, and those things were:

  1. What would 2.3 million monkeys actually look like, in practical terms that I could understand?
  2. What number of monkeys would officially be ‘too many’ monkeys for our small flat?

And that, kind reader, is how I came to find myself measuring a monkey, and working out its approximate volume, and then estimating the dimensions of our flat, and working out its approximate volume. And this is what I discovered...

If I took all the unnecessary things out of my flat – like all the furniture – and then packed little monkeys floor-to-ceiling, I’d get approximately 150,000 monkeys in there.

Artist's impression of 150,000 monkeys

So, even with the whole gaff bursting at the seams with monkeyage, It'd still only accommodate just 6.5% of 2.3 million. Thus, I’d need 15 or 16 of my flat if I wanted to house all the little monkeys. And I'd also need to sell all my furniture, obviously.

Now, for those of you who don’t know how big my flat is (which I’m guessing is all of you), I thought I’d do a quick conversion into more widely accessible terms….

… and the humble double-decker bus was my volumetric object of choice. And wouldn’t you just know it? It turns out that an average one of these has roughly the same volume as my flat! So, you’d need a fleet of 15 or 16 of these babies (with their seats and stairs and things removed) to store your collection of 2.3 million monkeys.

And do you know what? Even I had to agree that that, my friends, would probably constitute ‘too many’ monkeys.

And on that bombshell, this geek is signing off for today :o)


Lesley said...


An utterly fantabulous post VC - I is now cryin' with tears of laughter! Either you are an amazingly inspired and driven mathematician and philosopher or you're an out and out GEEK - both options totally fine with me!!!

You just cannot beat a good laff of a Friday can yer?

Ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa :)

I feel humbled by your genius!


p.s. just how long DID all those calculations actually take?

Kitty said...

The thing is VC, I never got a PG Tips monkey :-( Not one :-( My home, whilst not large, is surely big enough for ONE PG TIPS MONKEY?!

I bet your RSI is playing up something rotten with all the copying and pasting you must have done to make those pictures of oodles of PG Tips Monkeys :-p

Fab post though. x

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, love that Maths!!! I had 4 of the bigger monkeys, but one got stolen by my eldest daughter...and one took fliht to cornwall to be a mascot on my cousins beach buggy...with a knitted jacket to keep him a bit warm! Then I got 4 of the small ones with the space stickers on their paws...2 of these are still living in their T boxes, awaiting the freeing of the teabags...number 3 is stuck to the T cupboard (I leave him facing out, but every time I return he has his face to the door WHO KEEPS DOING THAT???) and the last one has escaped to sit on my desk with the bigger ones...and now, my middle daughter has moved out to live above the dry cleaners and in her (very dusty and dirty, but thankfully now almost empty) room I found a GIANT monkey, escaped from the tv ad, I think...So now we have an extended monkey family...Some have knitted jackets... Now I am saving up for my own bus....Bloglessly, and very sadly, Fran x

Lucy Locket-Pocket said...

I'm with Kitty here - I didn't get a single PG tips monkey either - but I don't care coz I've got a Monkee Maker monkee and very soon I'm going to have a Waldorf too! Yippeeeee!!!

Truly brilliantly geeky post today - I really think you have excelled yourself!

Lucy x

trashalou said...

See, everyone has their own paths to follow. The NBM has baking and bikes, you have monkeys, maths and madness.

Isn't it great that life has these little avenues to explore?

Stine said...

2.3 million might be just a tad toooo many. I have one original ITV Monkey and one PGTips (ala Ebay for both). Thank goodness, since neither are made any longer. I also have a semi-plethora of assorted monkeys made of knit including one from MONKEE MAKER! I've a monkey on the needles even as we speak. Which begs the question - Can there really be too many monkeys? Its always nice to have a few monkeys made of knit on hand as gifts when someone at work or church has a baby - then you have a cutely gift ready to go.

Geek or not, never too many monkeys!!!

lauren said...

OOF! and up till now, i thought PIE CHARTS were as good as it got!!! (sigh) it's math + monkeh heaven, here! (heaven, i tell ya!)

ok, so you MIGHT need a *sightly* bigger place in order to accomodate 2.3 of those little dudes (...not to mention all the concommitant TEABAGS...and the 16 buses...)

HEY!!! maybe this is why your foremothers built all those lovely CASTLES and things!!! (you do the math, i will write the learned historical treatise!)

Random Reflections said...

Your post is very, very scary and an indication of what happens when you have too much time on your hands. Knit, Knit! It will distract you from the voices in your head...

Ooh, incidentally I want one of those snake draught excluder things that goes across the door to keep the chills out so you could knit one of those if you want. But it would have to look friendly.

I have two PG Tips Monkeys and gave a third one away to my monkey loving colleague.

tintocktap said...

LOL - 2.3 million monkeys does sound rather a lot! My son was amazed in Tesco in Saturday to discover PG tips boxes with monkey pics on them - could hardly drag him away!

Monkee Maker said...

Hi VC,

I'm massively impressed with your mathematical skills - even though it made my head hurt just thinking about it .....

That picture of the 230 monkeys is fab ..... have you thought of marketing it as wrapping paper? I'd buy loads!


Michaela said...

Brilliant post VC, truely brilliant. I'm sure there's a Nobel Prize for Maths isn't there? I think you should be nominated!

Indigo Blue said...

I am very impressed with your maths and your collection of Monkeys. You must really love tea to have collected that many! Loved your knitted monkey too!