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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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  • lava lamps at SGI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:35PM (#19907777)
    when I think of random numbers, I can't help but remember the 'fishbowl' that had at SGI (mtn view) where an indycam was photo'ing some lavalamps and creating random seeds based on those images.

    ah, SGI....
  • Yawn... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by justasecond ( 789358 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:41PM (#19907857)

    John Walker (AutoDesk founder) has had a true random number generator available for web access for quite a long time. Looks like his site's currently down, but check out [] when it's sorted -- in addition to the random number generator he has a number of other cool gadgets and info. available.

    Oh, and this line from the FA is priceless: " connected to the internet through advanced computer technologies such as computer clusters and GRID network." Don't get too technical on me...

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:44PM (#19907911) Journal
    Don't Via C3 chips have a hardware random number generator, that uses quantum-level fluctuations in the chip (i.e. the kind of noise that most of the rest of the chip is specifically designed to try to avoid) to produce noise as output? Since these cost under $100, I can't see a researcher not being able to afford one. You obviously can't use this service for cryptography, since relying on someone else for your entropy is just asking for trouble.
  • Umm.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:48PM (#19907955)
    ..running a transistor "backwards" and capturing the noise via a sample-and-hold->A/D device is also entirely unpredictable, and has been used in computers long, long, long ago. Also, it can be done in very, very few components integrated in a circuit - can this monstrous quantum device be that? Soon they will call it a testament to science, I'm sure...
  • ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:50PM (#19907981) Homepage Journal

    I do believe they use numbers generated by atomic decay.
    The site claims that

    The randomness comes from atmospheric noise...
    I wonder, how could you know that their numbers are truly random, as they claim?
  • by poszi ( 698272 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:51PM (#19907993)
    Look at the signup page []. You not only need to prove that you are a human but also that you have elementary knowledge of calculus.
  • Re:I wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @06:52PM (#19907999) Homepage Journal
    These things usually use a natural noise source as a random seed and then mathematically normalize them to produce random numbers that are useful. It's pretty standard stuff.
  • by SpaceLifeForm ( 228190 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:49PM (#19908539)
    More info for those unfamiliar with the lava lamps random number generator:

    lavarand []

    A similar LGPL implementation: LavaRnd []

  • Re:Wow! (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @08:46PM (#19909023)
    Took figuring out six or seven characters before I realized that the alphabet was simply mapped to itself halfway down. After that, it was quick to read the message. Always found these things to be neat.
  • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AchiIIe ( 974900 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @10:15PM (#19909645)
    Bah, you must be a mathematician.
    If you put a monkey in front of a typewriter and he types on it for an infinite amount of time, he'll eventually type all of Shakespeare's work.

    It's called the Infinite monkey theorem []

    Ignoring punctuation, spacing, and capitalization, a monkey typing letters uniformly at random has one chance in 26 of correctly typing the first letter of Hamlet. It has one chance in 676 (26 times 26) of typing the first two letters. Because the probability shrinks exponentially, at 20 letters it already has only one chance in 26^20 = 19,928,148,895,209,409,152,340,197,376, roughly equivalent to the probability of buying 4 lottery tickets consecutively and winning the jackpot each time. In the case of the entire text of Hamlet, the probabilities are so vanishingly small they can barely be conceived in human terms. The text of Hamlet, even stripped of punctuation, contains well over 130,000 letters which would lead to a probability of one in 3.4×10^183946.

    For comparison purposes, there are only about 10^79 atoms in the observable universe and only 4.3 x 10^17 seconds have elapsed since the Big Bang. Even if the universe were filled with monkeys typing for all time, their total probability to produce a single instance of Hamlet would still be less than one chance in 10183800. As Kittel and Kroemer put it, "The probability of Hamlet is therefore zero in any operational sense of an event...", and the statement that the monkeys must eventually succeed "gives a misleading conclusion about very, very large numbers." This is from their textbook on thermodynamics, the field whose statistical foundations motivated the first known expositions of typing monkeys
  • by PSUspud ( 7236 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @10:55PM (#19909931) Homepage
    Not really. Ever since Einstein's theory of stimulated emission, physicists have known that some events are really and truly random, and that it is not possible, even in theory, to predict when they will occur. A good example is radioactive decay. Some atoms, at exactly the same energy levels, will decay in multiple different ways, at a time that can not be predicted.

    Quantum scattering (i.e., what happens when really really small particles bounce off of each other) is also not a deterministic process: Identical particles, in exactly the same energy state, will often scatter differently. Looking at particles coming out of a Bose-Einstein condensate is a good example: they are all in exactly the ground state, but come out in random ways.

    Yeah, it's weird, and Einstein never got used to it, but his big paradox about it, the EPR paradox, has been shown to physically come down against determinism and hidden variables. So, like it or not, randomness is an inherent part of nature. Deal with it.
  • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @11:17PM (#19910101) Homepage
    And yet, if those monkeys are truly typing randomly, any set of 130,000 characters they type has exactly the same chance of being Hamlet as it does anything else.

    Let's say my cat just traipsed on my keyboard and typed "dsafhhrnvcdbqwtrwqerwe897509k;ln b,.cnjhcvdsytwejbhd". Yesterday I might have asked you what were the chances of a cat randomly typing "dsafhhrnvcdbqwtrwqerwe897509k;ln b,.cnjhcvdsytwejbhd", and you might have replied "vanishingly small, so much so that it just isn't going to happen in your lifetime". And you'd be right from a statistical point of view. Yet it happened.

  • by E++99 ( 880734 ) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @12:31AM (#19910589) Homepage

    Look at the signup page. You not only need to prove that you are a human but also that you have elementary knowledge of calculus.

    I propose adding this to the /. signup process.
  • by Mathinker ( 909784 ) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @12:45AM (#19910671) Journal
    > What am I missing?

    I'll start to list some of the things you're assuming, that are wrong:

    (1) The probability distribution of the individual bytes of the memory of your computer is uniform;
    (2) The individual bytes of the memory of your computer are independently distributed (i.e., there is no correlation whatsoever between the value of a byte and the values of the surrounding bytes);
    (3) If you could invent a "sufficiently arbitrary" method for selecting the bytes, it wouldn't already pay to use the address itself as the random number;
    (4) If you construct a float from independently uniformly distributed bytes, the distribution of the value of the float would be the distribution you are interested in (see IEEE_754 []);

    On the other hand, you are correct that this announcement is mostly a big yawn because:

    (1) High quality truly random numbers have been available via the Internet a long time (just not from direct quantum sources)
    (2) Hardware for generating large quantities of truly random numbers from various noise sources has been available for a long time
    (3) Hardware for generating large quantities of truly random numbers directly from quantum sources is now available (Quantis)
    (4) A DIY solution for (2) was posted on Slashdot [] recently
  • Ummm -- no (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PSUspud ( 7236 ) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @01:28AM (#19910893) Homepage
    No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that experiments have been set up that have put particles into identical states, and then watched them evolve differently in time.

    When I say identical states, I mean identical states. In quantum mechanics, there is an underlying symmetry for exchange of particles. (Integer spin has no change in the wave function at all on particle exchange ==> Bose-Einstein statistics. Half-Integer spin has an inversion in the wave function on particle exchange ==> Fermi-Dirac statistics.) This is not marginal stuff -- it explains why lasers work (integer spin) and atoms have electrons with different energy levels (half integer spin). If we take an atom like Helium (even spin), and do experiments with it, we get the results from Bose-Einstein statistics, which means that the particles must be identical, since otherwise, we couldn't see those results.

    I think you are underestimating physics. In physics, we don't talk about something if we can't define what it means. The gold standard in physics is a tested prediction. Almost as good is the testable prediction. The minimum level for something to be called physics (rather than theology) is the thought experiment, which might someday be turned into a real experimental prediction. An affirmative statement in physics requires experimental proof, and disagreeing with an affirmative statement takes at least a prediction why. Gut feelings don't count, and I've got a feeling (this is slashdot, not physics, so I can say that) that a gut feeling is all you have.
  • Re:Wait... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hsquared ( 219832 ) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:37AM (#19911453)
    Not necessary. The number Pi already contains all the works of Shakespeare, along with all other works. It's an infinite, non-repeating series of digits. If you interpret it as an MPEG stream, it even contains all movies ever made and ever to be made! So leave those monkeys alone.
  • Cheapo version (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2007 @07:50AM (#19912449)
    Create your own RNG at home...

    1) Detune radio, turn up volume.
    2) Attach to audio-in of PC.
    3) Sample incoming audio to obtain true random numbers.

  • it's been done (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zcv ( 1108935 ) <> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:27AM (#19914809)
    Fourmilab's been doing this for years with HotBits []. I remember writing an atomic-powered band name generator that used it.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern