Random number generation is a lot harder than one might suppose: since they are generated by an algorithm, there will always bias, a ‘regularity’ which makes even the most random-seeming number generation non-random.
Why is this important?
For security, among other applications.
If a security system’s ‘random numbers’ can be predicted, its encryption can be cracked and the system will no longer be secure. (Ok – this is a simplification, but the underlying principle holds.)
This is why generating truly random numbers is so important. It looks like Ben Sussman, an Ottawa scientists at the National Research Council (NRC), has made some serious advances here:
‘Sussman’s Ottawa lab uses a pulse of laser light that lasts a few trillionths of a second.
His team shines it at a diamond. The light goes in and comes out again, but along the way, it changes.
“This out-coming light is very, very special,” Sussman says.
It is changed because it has interacted with quantum vacuum fluctuations, the microscopic flickering of the amount of energy in a point in space.’