Fastest random number generator: Sounds of silence proving a hit

Apr 11, 2012
Sounds of silence proving a hit
Random number generator.

( -- Researchers at The Australian National University have developed the fastest random number generator in the world by listening to the 'sounds of silence'.

The researchers – Professor Ping Koy Lam, Dr Thomas Symul and Dr Syed Assad from the ANU ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology – have tuned their very sensitive light detectors to listen to vacuum – a region of space that is empty.

Professor Lam said vacuum was once thought to be completely empty, dark, and silent until the discovery of the modern quantum theory. Since then scientists have discovered that vacuum is an extent of space that has virtual sub-atomic particles spontaneously appearing and disappearing.

It is the presence of these virtual particles that give rise to random noise. This ‘vacuum noise’ is omnipresent and may affect and ultimately pose a limit to the performances of fibre optic communication, radio broadcasts and computer operation.

“While it has always been thought to be an annoyance that engineers and scientists would like to circumvent, we instead exploited this vacuum noise and used it to generate random numbers,” Professor Lam said.

“Random number generation has many uses in information technology. Global climate prediction, air traffic control, electronic gaming, encryption, and various types of computer modelling all rely on the availability of unbiased, truly random numbers.

“To date, most random number generators are based on computer algorithms. Although computer generated random numbers can be useful, knowing the input conditions to the algorithm will lead to predictable and reproducible output, thus making the numbers not truly random. To overcome this issue, generators relying on inherently random physical processes, such as radioactive decay and chaotic behaviour in circuits, have been developed.”

Dr Thomas Symul added: “Vacuum noise is one of the ultimate sources of randomness because it is intrinsically broadband and its unpredictability is guaranteed by quantum theory. Because of this, we are able to generate billions of random numbers every second.”

Dr Syed Assad said the team has linked their table-top laser experiment directly to the internet. “We can easily push this technology even faster but currently we have already reached the capacity of our Internet connection,” he said.

The is online and can be accessed at Moreover, anyone who downloaded live random numbers from the ANU website will get a fresh and unique sequence of numbers that is different from all other users.

In collaboration with QuintessenceLabs, an Australian quantum technology company, the ANU team is now looking into commercialising this device. The team hopes to have this technology miniaturised down to the size of a thumb drive.

Explore further: Physicists provide new insights into the world of quantum materials

Provided by Australian National University

4.9 /5 (10 votes)

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User comments : 9

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1 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2012
"Moreover, anyone who downloaded live random numbers from the ANU website will get a fresh and unique sequence of numbers that is different from all other users."

My condolences to all those Australians who just flinched away from their monitors like Bruce Spence in Mad Max 2.
2 / 5 (4) Apr 11, 2012
This one is quicker:

int randomnumber()
return 5; /determined by a random dice roll
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 11, 2012
Your code comment is wrong, so you would probably have a compile error and if it did compile it wouldn't work for 2 reasons:
1] the "comment" would be junk in the code and
2] there is no main function so even if you get past all that without error it would never even execute.

Finally, no number is generated it is merely specified, please go back and practice with the typical hello world beginner program
not rated yet Apr 11, 2012

int rollDie() {
Random r = new Random();
return r.nextInt(5) 1; //Returns random die roll between 1-6.
Apr 11, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Apr 12, 2012
This is better than thermal noise? I wonder how much better, as it sounds more complex (i.e. more expensive, no doubt patented).
1 / 5 (1) Apr 12, 2012
@Alfie: Yes, it is better. Unlike thermal noise, this is based on quantum effects which are guaranteed (tm) to be truly random, probabilistic in nature. Not so with thermal noise. Just how much better it is and whether or not the difference is important enough to matter, that obviously depends on your needs and implementation. But, fundamentally, quantum randomness will always beat thermal or molecular in randomness. Just for the simple reason that we don't even know anything more random than that :-)
1 / 5 (1) Apr 12, 2012
Oh, and about patenting. I doubt it because radioactive decay based random numbers generators existed back in Eniac times. Not quite vacuum fluctuations but close enough to claim "prior art" ( I think, not a lawyer here). Possibly details of implementation could be patented but not the idea itself.
not rated yet Apr 14, 2012
Who knows we may find out that some of the numbers aren't as random as we think, a way for advanced intelligent life forms to talk to each other through virtual space using the encryption of random vacuum numbering system. Kind of like Carl Sagan's, "Contact."
1 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2012
Hidden parameters Ron? Yes, there is still some wiggle room there but not much and gradually getting smaller. Just a few months back there was a report on this site of yet another exoeriment which closed down yet another whole category of possible theories using those parameters. The oldest such experiment I personally remember dates back to 1983 (publication date) and they've been working on it ever since. And before that too.