Sunday afternoon sanity.

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

This Sunday afternoon seems to me, at the very moment, to have been of a nicer kind than sunday afternoons usually prove to be. Normally you spend the day trying to cope at your best with “last night’s headache” or the day tries to depress you by rain or the thought of the whole cycle of “week” starting all over once again (adding to this, Sunday is most often the day I tend to realize yet another week has passed without me accomplishing anything of what I had intended to do – oh great). As soon as I am into Monday it all seems okay again, but Sundays are always my personal vulnerable spot of the week. I would like to hear Garfields opinion on that (as you might know, he has similar views, only his bad day is Monday).
Anyway, today the sun chose to shine, I got up at 9am and, after a good breakfast, discovered I had the rest of the day to myself. Taking seat in the backyard I buried myself into the book at the top of my “Alex, just wanted to remind you, we’ll lie here and catch dust until you read us” – pile of books: R.A. Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger II.
Almost finished it. And, as always with Wilson, he again managed to completely kick me out of my own “reality-tunnel” (I cite him here). I guess he would be glad to hear that besides all the other methods to accomplish this, his own books are also VERY effective. But couldn’t that also go for other good books? I guess..

A question arising while setting the book aside for a few moments and thinking about what I just read was:

In an system of electric circuits (as computers happen to be) how exactly is a random element created? A curcuit spitting out binaries at random, which give you a number between 0 and 1 (the random element), which then can be multiplied with a maximum number and then round to the next decimal give you a random number? So far my first (novice) thought..
But to which accuracy is a decimal (if existing) calculated? is there actually a possibility to have a truly random circuit of some sort? How is this electrically achieved?

“Science Ho”, as I head on to google and search for ‘random numbers’..

result #1:
Random numbers can’t be produced by a system of electric circuits (computer), as “numbers calculated by a computer through a deterministic process, cannot, by definition, be random” (fourmilab.ch/hotbits).
result #2:
All numbers produced by average computer hardware are so called “pseudo-random numbers” created by “pseudo-random number generators”, which are algorithms trying to emulate true randomness (see www-unix.mcs.anl.gov and/or howstuffworks.com). These numbers however are predictable as soon as one knows “where in the sequence the first number is taken from” (random.org). These numbers therefore are not satisfactory for appliances as for example encryption..

So how do they get truly random numbers then?

result #3:
By converting truly random signals into numbers. I’ve found two methods to do this in my fairly short (5 mins) research:
At HotBits a method is explained through which random data, supplied by a geiger-counter reading the radioactive decay of Krypton-85 (no, Superman is not endangered here, you dork), is converted into digital numbers.
Another method (easier to rebuild with household materials, if ANYBODY is interested in doing so) applied at random.org is recording atmospheric noise from a radio channel not broadcasting anything and converting that rondom noise into digital numbers.

So, if you now managed to build your own truly random appliance or think you’ve built the perfect algorithm to create random numbers, you can even test the randomness of generated files with a tool that measures the “entropy” (information density of the contents of a file, expressed as a number of bits per character) with a handy little tool available at fourmilab.ch.

Now please don’t stare at me like that! This is really interesting as hell once you get into it.. hope I didn’t get carried away. To end this, a little Haiku (whoooop de goooo) describing the other part of my afternoon:

Not to kill this both’ring bee
I demand myself
Believing its innocence.

´╗┐

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