Dating lamp lava

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The new process replaces the lava lamps with a more Zen-like source of entropy: a webcam with its lens cap on.

The chaotic thermal "noise" emitted by the webcam is digitized and put through a hash algorithm that churns the number set, stripping unwanted sections of predictability.

But when large ecommerce sites gobble millions of random digits every day to encrypt information, leafing through a book of tables doesn't cut it.

What's needed is a high-output generator that can plumb mere disorder and extract true randomness - a task, incidentally, beyond the reach of any computer on earth. A digital device can be programmed to scramble the bits of a number in such a way that the result appears to be unrelated to previously generated numbers.

How two math geeks with a lava lamp and a webcam are about to unleash chaos on the Internet.

Here's a random thought: "Everything we do to achieve privacy and security in the computer age depends on random numbers."So says Simon Cooper, an encryption expert and author of .

Pollsters use the sequences to help select representative samples of the public; scientists to model chaotic molecular behavior; physicists to conduct simulations of nuclear detonations. Tippett published a table of 41,600 random numbers obtained by taking the middle digits from area measurements of English churches.

Random numbers also play a crucial role in lotteries and gambling. In 1955, the Rand Corporation published , a massive tome filled with tables of random numbers.

As many as 368 bits of random data go into creating the connection - 128 bits to make encryption keys, the rest for authentication codes and the prevention of replay attacks - that's necessary whenever you send your credit card information over an ecommerce site's "secure server" or exchange medical records with your insurance company online.He codiscovered the 25th and 26th Mersenne primes, which, if you're keeping score at home, are 2, respectively.With Lava Rnd, Noll is letting others get in on the mathematical fun."The Grand Canyon wouldn't be so popular if it was just a uniform trench.The trick is controlling and managing chaos and turning it into something useful."In 1996, Noll and two colleagues at Silicon Graphics came up with Lavarand, a patented system that used Lava Lites to help generate random numbers.Random number sequences have been around for 4,000 years, but never have they been in such demand.

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