Random numbers

Truly random numbers are hard to find, as patterns tend to abound everywhere. This is problematic, because there are times when a completely random string of digits is necessary: whether you are choosing the winner of a raffle or generating the one-time pad that secures the line from the White House to the Kremlin.

Using random radio crackle, random.org promises to deliver random data in a number of convenient formats (though one should be naturally skeptical about the security of such services). Another page, by Jon Callas, provides further information on why random numbers are both necessary and surprisingly tricky to get.

This comic amusingly highlights another aspect of the issue.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

5 thoughts on “Random numbers”

  1. The Strange Story of Dual_EC_DRBG

    Random numbers are critical for cryptography: for encryption keys, random authentication challenges, initialization vectors, nonces, key-agreement schemes, generating prime numbers and so on. Break the random-number generator, and most of the time you break the entire security system. Which is why you should worry about a new random-number standard that includes an algorithm that is slow, badly designed and just might contain a backdoor for the National Security Agency.

  2. Automatic Dice Thrower


    “The Dice-O-Matic is 7 feet tall, 18 inches wide and 18 inches deep. It has an aluminum frame covered with Plexiglas panels. A 6×4 inch square Plexiglas tube runs vertically up the middle almost the entire height. Inside this tube a bucket elevator carries dice from a hopper at the bottom, past a camera, and tosses them onto a ramp at the top. The ramp spirals down between the tube and the outer walls. The camera and synchronizing disk are near the top, the computer, relay board, elevator motor and power supplies are at the bottom.”

    Click on the link and watch the short video.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *