Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

Random number generation...no dice required

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

Computer generated random numbers - or at least the ones created by commercially available PCs - have generally fallen short of 'true randomness,' since in order to create them the computer has to start with something, and that something is usually some form of complicated mathematical algorithm. For most people, this kind of "pseudo randomness" is probably enough for their needs, but for security encryption and scientific experiments, true randomness is ideal.

Now a new service available online for free has come up with a way to generate these numbers: by tying the number generation to the inherently random processes at the heart of quantum physics.

The Quantum Random Bit Generation Service draws its data from the detection of photon emissions in semiconductors. As the site describes:

In this process photons are detected at random, one by one independently of each other. Timing information of detected photons is used to generate random binary digits - bits.

It's a neat way of generating random numbers, but not the first one available on the internet. Previous random number generators have tied their results to the movement of liquids in a lava lamp or atmospheric noise. And while it may be useful for scientific purposes, the Quantum Random Bit Generation Service isn't quite ready for security encryption, the site warns.

This story has a couple of amusing side notes. One is that in order to register to use the service, the person signing in must answer a Calculus question as the Captcha - the test used to determine if the user is human or a computer. Readers attempting to register are greeted with questions about polynomials or trigonometry (featuring the dreaded cosine and sine), which, if you are like me, you've long since forgotten. Luckily, the site allows you to refresh until an easier question appears. And inevitably (and in a rather unrandom manner) about one in four questions is childlike in its simplicity. I registered after correctly answering -4 + (-1) * (-5) = 1. It's a bit embarrassing.

The other interesting note is the initial press release, which said quasi-random numbers were generated by using "various algorithms to pick the numbers from large pre-compiled databases of numbers obtained by methods such as rolling the dice."

Afterwards one of the site's administrators at the Ruder Boskovic Institute in Croatia was compelled to provide a correction:

I was thrilled to see that the QRBGS project has been SlashDotted. And Dugg (or however you spell it :D). However, I was very sad to find out that the original text that these sites refer to has been written by the PR department, mangling the facts in the process, and forgetting to run the final version by me. I would like to apologise to all the readers who are now busily generating their pseudo-random number databases by rolling dice.

Thanks to Slashdot for the link.

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.

Comments

Carolyn

Should I ever desire random in its true form, I shall look to the links provided. Thanks!

Posted July 19, 2007 01:07 PM

Monkey

Winnipeg

I don't want to but I'll post anyways.

WHO CARES

If you want true randomness make up a crazy bill, bring it up to the US Senate and get them to vote on it, even if it's the same bill that you bring them over and over there will always be a different total of votes!

Posted July 19, 2007 02:01 PM

Carolyn

Heeeey... didn't we see this bill last month?
Who cares? Maybe this one is different!
Maybe... but I think it looks really similar.
I'm voting Against.
Ack, wait! Me too I guess!

Month Later:

...this is definitely the same bill.
For!
For? Why?
Because I can't vote Against again!
Well then I will!


AND SO ON FOREVER.

Posted July 19, 2007 03:14 PM

Monkey

Winnipeg

LOL!

Posted July 19, 2007 05:24 PM

Charles

Ontario

...much laughter here. Much.

Posted July 20, 2007 09:06 AM

Garet

Winnipeg

The human mind cannot comprehend true randomness anyways. The only way we can tell that a computer program isn't random is based on the code.

Posted July 20, 2007 09:35 AM

A. Essex

True randomness is important for cryptographic purposes, although not from an untrusted source (such as this).

Posted July 21, 2007 04:08 AM

Andrew

Toronto

A human can certainly detect a computer generated random number series. Just wait long enough and the numbers will begin to repeat in exactly the same order - guaranteed.

Posted July 22, 2007 09:42 PM

Bris

Toronto

" I registered after correctly answering -4 + (-1) * (-5) = 1. It's a bit embarrassing."

Would not the correct answer to the above equation be 25?

1 would be the answer to: -4 + ((-1)*(-5))

Posted July 23, 2007 08:06 AM

Garet

Winnipeg

But, that can happen with true randomness too, Andrew.

Posted July 23, 2007 10:16 AM

DiscLexic

Hamilton

Bris,

BEDMAS my friend, BEDMAS.

it doesn't matter if there are brackets there or not. multiply first, then subtract...

Posted July 24, 2007 10:01 AM

Garet

Winnipeg

You forgot order of operations, Bris. The equation you wrote at the bottom and the one in the article are the same.

Posted July 24, 2007 10:25 AM

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

Post a Comment

Disclaimer:

Note: By submitting your comments you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that due to the volume of e-mails we receive, not all comments will be published, and those that are published will not be edited. But all will be carefully read, considered and appreciated.

Note: Due to volume there will be a delay before your comment is processed. Your comment will go through even if you leave this page immediately afterwards.

Privacy Policy | Submissions Policy

Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

Kim Jong-un threatens to 'tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire' days after Trump's speech to UN video
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in an extraordinary and direct rebuke, called U.S. President Donald Trump "deranged" and said he will "pay dearly" for his threats, a possible indication of more powerful weapons tests on the horizon.
U.K. police charge 18-year-old with attempted murder in London tube bombing
British police have charged an 18-year-old man with attempted murder and causing an explosion over last week's bomb attack on the London subway.
Defying Trump, Iran says it will boost missile capabilities
Iran will strengthen its missile capabilities and will not seek permission from any country to do so, President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday in an undisguised snub to demands by U.S. President Donald Trump.
more »

Canada »

Analysis Why confessing Canada's failures could be part of Trudeau's plan for UN success: Chris Hall
Was highlighting some of Canada's most shameful shortcomings during a speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday part of the prime minister's campaign to earn Canada a seat on the Security Council in 2021?
FIFTH ESTATE Rebranding the pit bull: Family-friendly pet or danger to children?
Pit bulls have been the focus of lobbying efforts to rebrand them as a family-friendly dog, but a report by the CBC's The Fifth Estate has found that medical studies are sounding the alarm about child safety issues involving this type of dog.
CBC Investigates Phoenix payroll system under budget? Sounds like creative accounting to expert
The implementation costs of a payroll system that was delayed and has never worked properly actually came in under budget at a cost of $307 million, the federal government says.
more »

Politics »

Analysis Why confessing Canada's failures could be part of Trudeau's plan for UN success: Chris Hall
Was highlighting some of Canada's most shameful shortcomings during a speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday part of the prime minister's campaign to earn Canada a seat on the Security Council in 2021?
U.S. slow to present specifics on key NAFTA demands
Canada is optimistic NAFTA can be renegotiated by the end of the year. But even as talks move at a record pace, an official close to the talks says the U.S. has been lagging when it comes to presenting some texts or specific proposals.
Health minister says Canadians need to avoid judging those addicted to opioids
As the opioid epidemic continues to march across the country, destroying an ever increasing number of lives, the federal health minister says people have fallen into the habit of passing judgment on those addicted to the drug.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

'I have difficulty with the hero thing:' Jeff Bauman on Boston Marathon bombing film Stronger video
How does it feel to have Jake Gyllenhaal play you in a major Hollywood movie? 'It was surreal,' says Jeff Bauman, the real-life inspiration for Stronger, a biographical drama about his recovery after losing his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
Studio downplays concerns about long hours after Riverdale star's car crash
K.J. Apa, 20, who plays Archie on the CW show Riverdale, was involved in a car crash last Thursday after working a 14-hour day on set.
STM nixes bloody ballet ad, says poster 'could incite violence'
Montreal's transit authority is refusing to let Les Grands Ballets Canadiens put up an advertisement in the city's Metro system for its upcoming show, saying the ad's image could incite violence.
more »

Technology & Science »

Facebook plans better 'election integrity,' Trump says it's part of 'Russia hoax'
A day after Facebook acknowledged the role advertising on its platform played in the 2016 U.S. election, President Donald Trump said it was all part of the “Russia hoax” and the Kremlin denied placing any ads.
DEEP TROUBLE Snow crab fishery to keep 'sustainable' label amid endangered whale deaths
The world's leading "ecolabel" is set to once again certify as sustainable the Gulf of St. Lawrence snow crab fishery, even though North Atlantic right whales are being killed by fishing gear.
Uber stripped of London licence, vows to appeal
London's transport regulator on Friday stripped Uber of its licence to operate from the end of the month, affecting over 40,000 drivers in a huge blow to the taxi app.
more »

Money »

Inflation heats up to 1.4% in August
Canada's inflation rate inched up to 1.4 per cent in August as transportation costs such as gasoline and airplane tickets got more expensive.
Tim Hortons accuses disgruntled franchisees of leaking confidential info, breaching contracts
A group representing frustrated Tim Hortons franchisees says its board members have been accused by the company of helping leak confidential information.
MARKETPLACE 'You have to upsell them': Marketplace exposes how dealerships push maintenance you don't need
Learn how you can stop wasting money on unnecessary car maintenance.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Shanghai fans eat up Canucks-Kings pre-season China spectacle video
A golden dragon was held aloft on poles by skaters. Kobe Bryant appeared on video. NHL mascots gave the crowd a primer on what this odd game is all about. NHL preseason hockey made its debut in China — a 5-2 victory by the Los Angeles Kings over the Vancouver Canucks.
Video Hip Check: China oohs and ahhs over NHL hockey video
It's probably the first time a dragon has ever been used in an NHL pre-game ceremony
Canada's top youth hockey league taking concussions head-on
Hockey's approach to dealing with concussions continues to evolve, and the ultra-serious Greater Toronto Hockey League is taking the lead at the youth level with its latest initiatives.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »