It was once thought that vacuums--like the vacuum of space--contained nothing. No particles, no sound, just empty darkness. But it has since come to light, thanks to discoveries in quantum physics, that virtual sub-atomic particles constantly and spontaneously appear and disappear, even in the void. Which doesn't mean a whole lot unless you're trying to build the ultimate random number generator.
Tapping this spontaneous cascade of sub-atomic particles within vacuums, scientists at the Australian National University have built the world's fastest random number generator by listening in on the action. Using lasers, the team has created a device that can listen to the random noise in the vacuum and use it to generate truly random numbers, which have myriad uses in encryption, information technology, computer modeling, and other complex tasks.
Most existing random number generators work off of some kind of computer algorithms. Those algorithms are pretty good, but if you know the inputs you can figure the outputs. In other words, the numbers aren't truly random, they are just correlated in a way that is unknown to the user. But Vacuum noise is truly random--quantum theory ensures the numbers are truly unpredictable. By measuring the noise in a vacuum, the team can generate billions of random numbers per second. The only thing limiting them in their ability to flood the world with random numbers is the capacity of their Web connection.
But that doesn't mean you can't get your very own sequence of unique random numbers off the Web. Access ANU's randomness generator here.
This list would be awesome to have as a developer. Many random generators are even time-based, which is pretty pathetic and immediately predictable. Wonder if they would offer some kind of web service to return these results as public accessible.
In space, no one can hear a tree fall in the forest.
I wonder if they took into account the natural "noise" and "vibration" that is caused by the spinning core of the Earth. Unless this vacuum is suspended in space, it's not going to be entirely still, thus not "quiet".
Playing Devil's Advocate since 1978
"The only constant in the universe is change"
-Heraclitus of Ephesus 535 BC - 475 BC
Some of the issues with this might be:
1. Since not everyone would have one of these devices, even with billions of numbers generated, it would still be a finite set of numbers to search through.
2. How would your computer retrieve one of these numbers (since a device such as this would be kind of impractical in a PC)?
3. Do they know if the numbers generated have a nice even distribution? Most random number generators create a number between 0 and 1. You then multiply this number by some power of 10 in order to get the scale of the number you want. However, if you wanted a number between 0 and 99, and it generated numbers clustered around 20, 30, 50 and 80 it wouldn't be much use.
Couldn't you just use the static from your TV. Isn't that random? It's only black and white pixels too. You can have black pixels represent 1 and white pixels represent 0 for a binary number. You could then convert the binary number into a series of integers.
@ lordroba; Your idea of tv pixel correlation for random number generation is far too cost effective to ever be utilized. Try pulling another one like this and you'll bring on the baleful glare of the Lords Of Entropy, aka the U.S. Government.
Supercomputers and 'random' number creation aside, I doubt it if Bill Gates would be very happy if his main savings account had a randomly generated security passcode of 3. But that's what we are looking at here, right? If we devise a system for 'random' number generation, and then go to putting qualifiers, minimums of digits, inserting various symbols, etc...then how random is it now?