ground- water, geo- statistics, environmental- engineering, earth- science

Random Numbers

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The importance of random numbers is often overlooked. Even the people who should realize their importance take their existence for granted. Uniform random numbers are a function and then they are generated. Ok, the ones in Excel are not the greatest. The typical ones in programming languages are ok. Some people have their special random numbers.

There are a few interesting ways to generate random numbers: My favourite to date was the lava lamp random generator, whose current version can be found online here and doesn’t require an actual lava lamp anymore.

Alternative Text

A lava lamp could be the source for random numbers

I just found out about a novel approach. Christian Gabriel at the Institute for Optics, Information and Photonics at the University of Erlangen, Germany recently published a novel method to generate random numbers: He proposed to

use vacuum fluctuations as quantum dice. Such fluctuations are another characteristic of the quantum world: there is nothing that does not exist there. Even in absolute darkness, the energy of a half photon is available and, although it remains invisible, it leaves tracks that are detectable in sophisticated measurements: these tracks take the form of quantum noise. This completely random noise only arises when the physicists look for it, that is, when they carry out a measurement. [from here]

The institute’s webpage states only that

By appropriately post-processing the measured data, truly random numbers which are solely based on quantum noise can be extracted.

I guess I would have to read the paper in detail what role the gaussian distribution plays and how the post-processing works exactly. In any way, this sure sounds like an interesting approach!

Written by Claus

October 8th, 2010 at 8:59 pm

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