Library of Babel

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 9.50.21 PMThis project is amazing. Jonathan Basile has created Jorge Borges’s library of Babel. It’s a digital creation of a thought experiment: if you keep combining random letters, you’ll eventually have everything that’s ever been written.

The site is well documented, although the premise is mind blowing and reading about the site can also make your brain freeze. The author has provided a graphical interface for browsing the library. Most books you pull out are random combinations of letters for hundreds of pages.

Where it gets interesting is in the search function. The site has the capacity to search the thousands of digital volumes for strings of text (up to 3200 characters). I have searched for paragraphs from books I’m writing, my name, sentences I’ve made up on the fly.

They are all there.

If you flip the pages around the text you search for, you find random words or often just random letters, but somehow, all those letters in my search texts have a location in the mass of volumes. Basile swears it’s not a hoax, and when I’ve checked for a longer segment after searching for a sentence, it comes up in a different volume. I learned of the project from The Paris Review, where Basile describes his project.

Give it a try. You’ll be amazed!

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