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Random numbers faster

A laser plus some calculations creates strings of orderless bits for encryption

5:46pm, July 14, 2009

With a laser, a mirror and some simple calculations, researchers have created a fast, reliable way to produce long strings of random numbers. This speedy method, reported in the July 10 Physical Review Letters, may one day be used to improve data encryption, computer simulations and even gambling software.

Generating truly random numbers isn’t easy. Many techniques rely on computer algorithms to create a seemingly unpredictable chain of numbers. But such methods, says study coauthor Michael Rosenbluh, are not truly random. Under certain conditions, anyone with the same program could reproduce an identical series. Despite this flaw, many of today’s encryption programs still rely on such computer-generated numbers.

Other techniques, based on the inherent messiness of physical processes, generate truly random numbers but work too slowly to be practical. These systems create strings of random bits — 0s and 1s — that can encode numbers. &

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