really random generators [again!]

A pointer sent me to Chemistry World and an article therein about “really random numbers“. Or “truly” random numbers. Or “exactly” random numbers. Not particularly different from the (in)famous lava lamp generator!

“Cronin’s team has developed a robot that can automatically grow crystals in a 10 by 10 array of vials, take photographs of them, and use measurements of their size, orientation, and colour to generate strings of random numbers. The researchers analysed the numbers generated from crystals grown in three solutions – including a solution of copper sulfate – and found that they all passed statistical tests for the quality of their randomness.” Chemistry World, Tom Metcalfe, 18 February 2020

The validation of this truly random generator is thus exactly the same as a (“bad”) pseudo-random generator, namely that in the law of large number sense, it fits the predicted behaviour. And thus the difference between them cannot be statistical, but rather cryptographic:

“…we considered the encryption capability of this random number generator versus that of a frequently used pseudorandom number generator, the Mersenne Twister.” Lee et al., Matter, February 10, 2020

Meaning that the knowledge of the starting point and of the deterministic transform for the Mersenne Twister makes it feasible to decipher, which is not the case for a physical and non-reproducible generator as the one advocated. One unclear aspect of the proposed generator is the time required to produce 10⁶, even though the authors mention that “the bit-generation rate is significantly lower than that in other methods”.

3 Responses to “really random generators [again!]”

  1. Because I use so much sampling, by default, whenever I fire up an R workspace, I load the random package and set the seed to something from an external call to its peculiar source of randomness, atmospheric radio noise, and then spin a randomly calculated number of times generating random numbers using the R built-in sample.int.

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