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True Random Number Generator Goes Online 439

amigoro writes "A 'true' random number generator that relies on the unpredictable quantum process of photon emission has gone online providing academic and scientific community access to true random numbers free of charge."
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True Random Number Generator Goes Online

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  • ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:36PM (#19907785)
    Hasn't [] done this for a while already? Perhaps they don't have academic backing, but I do believe they use numbers generated by atomic decay.
  • Don't misunderstand (Score:5, Informative)

    by Icarus1919 ( 802533 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:38PM (#19907813)
    True random number [] generators have been around in hardware form for a while based on a number of different processes, not quantum only. But this is being offered to the community at large, who may not have the means to procure or pay for a hardware solution.
  • by Wise Dragon ( 71071 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:40PM (#19907851) Homepage
    This is neat but there have been other quantum random number generators online for years. This one by id Quantique springs to mind... [] I'm not sure what this new service provides that others don't. If you REALLY want secure random numbers you should buy a QRNG PCI card and make them yourself so you're the only one with a copy.
  • by i_like_spam ( 874080 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:42PM (#19907879) Journal
    Atmospheric noise []
    Lava lamps []
    Radioactive decay []
    Entropy []
  • ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by stinerman ( 812158 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {enits.nahtan}> on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:46PM (#19907939) Homepage
    Indeed. First page:

    RANDOM.ORG offers true random numbers to anyone on the Internet. The randomness comes from atmospheric noise, which for many purposes is better than the pseudo-random number algorithms typically used in computer programs. ...

    The service has been operating since 1998 and was built and is being maintained by Mads Haahr who is a Lecturer in the School of Computer Science and Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin in Ireland.
  • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xiph1980 ( 944189 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:47PM (#19907941)
    Too bad that's only ROT13:
    Not really the hardest of encryptions to crack.

    ..OMG, did anyone see that to register you have
    to solve a math problem like:

    derivative of (5*sin 3x +6cos(-pi/2))


    Here is a direct link to the generator, you can
    download the client from here as well: []

    QRand Command-line Utility [v0.2, 2007-07-17]
    Note 1: Compiles under Visual Studio and g++.
    Note 2: Windows executable included.
    Note 3: GNU Linux executable included.

  • by RealGrouchy ( 943109 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:13PM (#19908197)
    That joke would have been a lot funnier if you had cited your source [] (which, by the way, is required by xkcd's cc license).

    - RG>
  • Re:Wow! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Xiph1980 ( 944189 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:16PM (#19908217)
    Your mother a math teacher or a PhD?
    My mother doesn't even know what a sine is, let alone solve that to 15*cos(3x)
  • by edbaskerville ( 1060908 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:31PM (#19908379)

    For scientific research, there's a very good reason to use pseudo-random numbers: reproducibility.

    If you're analyzing a stochastic model, you want to be able to generate lots of runs with different random sequences and gather statistics from the ensemble. But if you see interesting behavior in a particular run and want to take a closer look, you want to be able to go back and run it again, exactly as it happened the first time. In this case, you don't want real randomness, you want pseudo-randomness with good statistical properties. I'm currently checking through my code to make sure you can do just that when using this tool [].

  • Re:lava lamps at SGI (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard W.M. Jones ( 591125 ) <rich.annexia@org> on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:38PM (#19908433) Homepage

    That would be Lavarand [] from, oh, just 10 years ago [].


  • ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by psu_whammy ( 940612 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:44PM (#19908495)
    You could, say, read up on the statistics [] they give you. The site has all sorts of fun info on exactly how their RNG works, and daily stats on the randomness of the numbers presented.
  • MPAA is on to you! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Aereus ( 1042228 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:46PM (#19908511)
    Great, now you're going to get yourself sued by the MPAA for randomly guessing their new encryption key!
  • ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AutumnLeaf ( 50333 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @08:36PM (#19908945)
    I wonder, how could you know that their numbers are truly random, as they claim?

    You can never know that. You can test "properties of randomness" and conclude "it looks random." But you have no way of knowing if that hopefully random sequence cross-correlates to a non-random sequence you haven't found, but that passes all of the tests.

    On the other hand, there is no randomness like quantum randomness. So if you believe their bit-stream faithfully represents the source, then in this case you can feel pretty good about it.
  • by E++99 ( 880734 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @08:41PM (#19908985) Homepage

    Given that this device is intended to produce "totally random numbers", I'd say it's output most certainly *won't* follow Benford's Law.

    In most cases it would, depending on the random distribution you're getting. Eg, in a random 8-bit number, you have 0-255. 111 of those start with 1, which is 43%; 67 start with 2, which is 26%; 11 each start with 3 through 9, which is 4% each.
  • by Sara Chan ( 138144 ) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @12:19AM (#19910559)
    HotBits is a true quantum-based Random Number Generator. For details, see How HotBits Works []. Hotbits would seem to be at least as good as the RNG discussed in the Slashdot story, and it too is free and online; the main drawback is that you can only get 2k bits at a time.
  • by Baron von Leezard ( 675918 ) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @12:35AM (#19910609)
    The intuitive disconnect here is that humans have a well-documented inability to understand or true randomness. By true randomness, I mean in a mathematical sense: uniformly distributed values over some range, with each value independent from the next (uncorrelated). Just try it: whatever you come up with, whether it be some algorithm, hardware, whatever — it will probably fail all the statistical tests for true randomness. And if it can't pass those tests, then it will be useless for most of the applications that one needs random things for... simulations, encryption, authentication, etc. And mind you, even if one can pass all the existing tests with some method, it doesn't mean that someone will invent a new statistical test tomorrow that the method will fail spectacularly. Like many apparently simple problems, random number generation is surprisingly deep and very, very difficult to do right.

  • Re:Wait... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ydra2 ( 821713 ) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @02:00AM (#19911027)
    > Actually, a random number generator isn't really random unless it is possible
    > for it to generate the number 42 a thousand times in a row...

    > Not so.

    > A random number generator might generate numbers in the range 0x10000000 to
    > 0xfffffff0 (and thus never generate 42 (0x0000002a) as a result). As long as
    > the distribution within that range is uniform, non-periodic, and lacking in
    > underlying structure, it's random. If it meets the first and last requirement
    > but is periodic, then it's pseudo-random.

    Actually so!

    Your range theory is a misunderstanding of RNG (true or pseudo). To restrict the range of values output is simply a matter of interpreting the bitsream in whatever way you choose.

    I could take any bitstream and get numbers either integer 1 and integer 2, and no other values allowed, but that doesn't mean the RNG is limited. Thats just my algorithm stripping all but the last bit and adding one, or whatever way I choose to restrict the range of numbers. That process has nothing to do with the underlying RNG and its randomness.
  • So long as your selection method for the bytes was sufficiently arbitrary

    As long as it was fairly random, one might say...
    You see the problem?
  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:36AM (#19913317) Homepage Journal

    Why use an algorithm? Can't it just pick a number from X to Y? i can pick a number.

    Because then your own psychology comes into play.

    If you ask people to pick a number between 1 and 10, the vast majority of them won't pick 1 or 10. People just don't like the edges. I think that they avoid 5, too, because it's right smack in the middle. For a number between 1 and 10 to be random, most people subconsciously want to make it not stand out and will pick something like 3, 6, or 8, thus not making it even random enough for gaming.

    Also, in the same vein of not standing out, if you ask people to pick multiple numbers between 1 and 10, most won't allow there to be any patterns in them in the attempt to make them more random, thus actually making them less random. For example, if you ask people to pick five numbers, most won't pick something like 4, 4, 4, 4, and 4, even though it's a legitimate combination that's just as likely as something like 7, 3, 1, 1, 9.

    Another example. When I was in high school, I used to play $5 in the lottery once a week, figuring that it sure would be convenient if I never had to bother going to college and get a job and so on. I usually just selected the quick pick and let the machine pick my numbers. Once, though, I manually picked 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 for the first ticket, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 for the second, and so on. My dad basically said, "You're an idiot. Those numbers will never come up, and you just wasted five dollars!" He never quite got it that, aside from the lottery being a colossal waste of money to begin with, it didn't matter what numbers I picked; any given set was just as likely to come up as any other given set. Not having six consecutive numbers is merely imposing human psychology on the random numbers, which could have very well been consecutive numbers.

    If I'm not mistaken, several years ago, someone proved that the digits of pi are random. That if you expand it out to a bazillion decimal places, you'll eventually run across patterns like 0123456789 and such. As humans, with brains that are designed to seek out patterns, it strikes us as interesting, perhaps even as some sort of sign that the numbers aren't random. Nothing is further from the truth, though; the lack of such patterns would be a sure sign that the numbers aren't random.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."