Wednesday, March 10, 2021

World's fastest random number generator

Nature/SciAm reports:
Researchers have built the fastest random-number generator ever made, using a simple laser. It exploits fluctuations in the intensity of light to generate randomness—a coveted resource in applications such as data encryption and scientific simulations—and could lead to devices that are small enough to fit on a single computer chip.

True randomness is surprisingly difficult to come by. Algorithms in conventional computers can produce sequences of numbers that seem random at first, but over time these tend to display patterns. This makes them at least partially predictable, and therefore vulnerable to being decoded.

To make encryption safer, researchers have turned to quantum mechanics, where the laws of physics guarantee that the results of certain measurements — such as when a radioactive atom decays — are genuinely random. ...

They recorded the light output of 254 independent pixels, which together produced random bits at a rate of around 250 terabits per second, or 250 terahertz. That’s several orders of magnitude faster than previous such devices, which recorded only one pixel at a time. ...

These could have useful applications, such as encryption technology on mobile phones.

No, there are no useful applications to having terabits of random numbers. You can do all the encryption that you would ever want to do, with a mere 256 random bits.

I wonder if they were trying to do something constructive, got garbage, and then decided to repackage their research as a random number generator.

They say "true randomness" and "genuinely random", but these phrases are meaningless.

First, there are physicists who believe in determinism. They are probably wrong, but surely they object to anything being truly random. If anything could ever be shown to be truly random, then determinism would be settled once and for all. That apparently has not happened, as the determinists are still trying to hold their ground.

Second, there are 50-cent chips that generate random numbers from thermal noise or something similar. See this article. There is not really any good reason to think that a quantum generator is better than a non-quantum one.

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