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"The Grand Canyon wouldn't be so popular if it was just a uniform trench.
The trick is controlling and managing chaos and turning it into something useful."In 1996, Noll and two colleagues at Silicon Graphics came up with Lavarand, a patented system that used Lava Lites to help generate random numbers.
The new process replaces the lava lamps with a more Zen-like source of entropy: a webcam with its lens cap on.
The chaotic thermal "noise" emitted by the webcam is digitized and put through a hash algorithm that churns the number set, stripping unwanted sections of predictability.
Pollsters use the sequences to help select representative samples of the public; scientists to model chaotic molecular behavior; physicists to conduct simulations of nuclear detonations. Tippett published a table of 41,600 random numbers obtained by taking the middle digits from area measurements of English churches.
Random numbers also play a crucial role in lotteries and gambling. In 1955, the Rand Corporation published , a massive tome filled with tables of random numbers.
A hacker trying to determine the next digit in a true random-number sequence will find it computationally infeasible. They date back to ancient Sumeria and Egypt, and were used as the key element in games of chance. As long as they aren't loaded, or the environment isn't otherwise altered to favor certain outcomes, throwing dice produces a reliable stream of random numbers. You can generate the numbers only as fast as you can throw - making, say, a craps game an impractical means for generating large strings.
In the 20th century, the demand for random numbers exploded.
And because the new service is open source, patent-free, and license-free, anyone will be able to cheaply build and operate a Lava Rnd server and receive the precious commodity free of charge - a random act of kindness. He's made several prime- and perfect-number discoveries, and at one time held or coheld nine prime number-related world records.
Every time you establish an SSL connection to, say, E*Trade, there's a string of digits working hard behind the scenes.
As many as 368 bits of random data go into creating the connection - 128 bits to make encryption keys, the rest for authentication codes and the prevention of replay attacks - that's necessary whenever you send your credit card information over an ecommerce site's "secure server" or exchange medical records with your insurance company online.
Even the secrecy of the messages whizzing between military commanders in the Middle East depends on random numbers.
A sequence is considered random if no patterns can be recognized in it - the longer the string, the stronger the encryption.
(Some CD players more accurately label the function Shuffle.) Random access memory in a computer isn't random, and that's a good thing. Random number strings must have no built-in trends or biases.