Random numbers via fluctuations of the quantum vacuum

ANU Quantum Random Number Server

This website offers true random numbers to anyone on the internet. The random numbers are generated in real-time in our lab by measuring the quantum fluctuations of the vacuum. The vacuum is described very differently in the quantum mechanical context than in the classical context. Traditionally, a vacuum is considered as a space that is empty of matter or photons. Quantum mechanically, however, that same space resembles a sea of virtual particles appearing and disappearing all the time. This results in the fact that the vacuum does not possess a zero-point energy, and consequently the electo-magnetic field describing this vacuum possesses random fluctuations in phase and amplitude at all frequencies. By carefully measuring these fluctuations, we are able to generate ultra-high bandwidth random numbers.

The hardware is constantly generating random bits at a rate of 5.7Gbits/s. Currently, the rate at which the live bits are streamed is being limited by the bandwidth of the internet connection.

Prior art, thermodynamic: LavaRnd.

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15 Responses:

  1. Edouard says:

    I saw your link to LavaRnd and expected to see SGIs lava lamp farm on the other end. But one of the SGI guys made LavaRnd so that's OK. Ahhhh, SGI in it's heyday... Now I'm feeling sad.

    VIA's x86 chips have had hardware thermal quantum RNGs for a number of years now - see http://www.via.com.tw/en/initiatives/padlock/hardware.jsp

    • jwz says:

      I wish: the SGI machine that was hosted on was melted down years ago. But, the legend lives on.

  2. Jon says:

    I've got me one of these. It's great: http://www.entropykey.co.uk/

    • brian says:

      Their product may be really great, but the company seems unable to support it. I ordered my key in October, never received it, and have been mailing them periodically ever since, perhaps 20 times, trying to resolve it with them. To date I have received one response. Their response ignored everything I had said, and assured me it would arrive soon, even though I'd explained in my email that I'd changed addresses.

      I hope one day this will be resolved, because it really seems like a cool device.

      • Andy says:

        That's a shame. I have three entropy keys and they work well. I have heard of other customer service problems with the company though.

      • Paul Martin says:

        Brian: Simtec is aware of your original order which coincided with us running out of stock. It may have been shipped to the address you originally provided. It appears that you've moved at least twice since you first ordered. I'll try to find out what happened to it. You should receive an email from me today.

  3. J. Peterson says:

    Another random bit source: HotBits. He supplies the results in a number of convenient formats.

  4. Dan Sylveste says:

    I think this was a plot device in the short story 'The Spade of Reason.'

  5. Leolo says:

    Is it just me or is sending random number unencrypted from an untrusted party over the Internet less then useful?

    • James C. says:

      It’s just you. Also, random numbers are useful for things other than encryption.

      • Leolo says:

        This is of course true. But I can't think of a situation outside of encryption where strong random numbers are required.

        • James C. says:

          E.g. computational simulations of anything, like weather, or signal degradation, or nuclear explosion simulations. PRNG random is a waste if you’re going to burn a lot of cycles on something. If you’re doing something hard, you might as well do it right.

          • cthulhu says:

            Disagree. A good PRNG (e.g., Mersenne Twister) is almost always superior to true random numbers for Monte Carlo simulations because it make it so easy to repeat individual cases, rerun the exact same sequence, etc. - all invaluable in debugging and testing (e.g., real life).

  6. meowrone catson says:

    you can buy a PCI card for your computer that generates true random numbers now : http://www.idquantique.com/true-random-number-generator/products-overview.html

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