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January 29, 2022

Getting random values from the quantum fluctuations of vacuum using an API

Filed under: Computer Security,Interesting Sites,Tech Related — Suramya @ 10:35 PM

Generating truly random numbers programmatically is something that sounds like it should be simple to do but is in fact quite hard. Most algorithms that generate numbers are in fact pseudo-random numbers, which means that they look random but can be predicted at times. So the ability to generate/get truly random numbers is a big deal. Cloudflare uses a wall to wall setup of Lava Lamps to generate random numbers that are used to encrypt the traffic on their servers. Other organizations have other methods where they measure the atmospheric radiation, sound etc etc.

The ANU QRNG website managed by Australian National University offers true random numbers to anyone on the internet. The random numbers are generated in real-time in the lab by measuring the quantum fluctuations of the vacuum.

They have API access enabled for accessing the numbers and users can download blocks of random numbers as well as a .zip file which is updated periodically.

The vacuum is described very differently in the quantum physics and classical physics. In classical physics, a vacuum is considered as a space that is empty of matter or photons. Quantum physics however says that that same space resembles a sea of virtual particles appearing and disappearing all the time. This is because the vacuum still possesses a zero-point energy. Consequently, the electromagnetic field of the vacuum exhibits random fluctuations in phase and amplitude at all frequencies. By carefully measuring these fluctuations, we are able to generate ultra-high bandwidth random numbers.

This website allows everybody to see, listen or download our quantum random numbers, assess in real time the quality of the numbers generated and learn more about the physics behind it. The technical details on how the random numbers are generated can be found in Appl. Phys. Lett. 98, 231103 (2011) and Phys. Rev. Applied 3, 054004 (2015).

I think this is a cool application and a lot of reputable sites/users are using this for their setup so it seems like a reputable source of random numbers. I would still take these numbers and then use that as the seed in a pseudo-random generator and use that result in your application instead of using the number directly.

– Suramya

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