ANU has some very exciting news about the generation of random numbers. Which does effect your life in everything from credit card transaction security to how we pick the winners of competitions and which local artists we put in the rugby podcast:
Professor Lam said vacuum was once thought to be completely empty, dark, and silent until the discovery of the modern quantum theory. Since then scientists have discovered that vacuum is an extent of space that has virtual sub-atomic particles spontaneously appearing and disappearing.
It is the presence of these virtual particles that give rise to random noise. This ‘vacuum noise’ is omnipresent and may affect and ultimately pose a limit to the performances of fibre optic communication, radio broadcasts and computer operation.
“While it has always been thought to be an annoyance that engineers and scientists would like to circumvent, we instead exploited this vacuum noise and used it to generate random numbers,” Professor Lam said.
“Random number generation has many uses in information technology. Global climate prediction, air traffic control, electronic gaming, encryption, and various types of computer modelling all rely on the availability of unbiased, truly random numbers.
“To date, most random number generators are based on computer algorithms. Although computer generated random numbers can be useful, knowing the input conditions to the algorithm will lead to predictable and reproducible output, thus making the numbers not truly random. To overcome this issue, random number generators relying on inherently random physical processes, such as radioactive decay and chaotic behaviour in circuits, have been developed.”
Dr Thomas Symul added: “Vacuum noise is one of the ultimate sources of randomness because it is intrinsically broadband and its unpredictability is guaranteed by quantum theory. Because of this, we are able to generate billions of random numbers every second.”
Even more exciting they’ve made the generator available to the public.
We’d been using Random.Org for our random number needs, but will be happy to switch.
[Photo of Random Number Generator courtesy ANU]