Random Numbers (was Re: what does "random" mean to you?)

From: Edward Cherlin <cherlin_at_pacbell_dot_net>
Date: Fri Jun 17 2005 - 01:14:18 CDT

On Wednesday 15 June 2005 12:24, Stephanie Frank Singer wrote:
> use a well-regarded random number generator (say,
> whatever they use for the lottery)

Being used for the lottery is not much of a recommendation.

You would no doubt be astonished to hear how many gambling system
programmers simply use the random function provided with
whatever programming language they use, and do no analysis of
how it affects the results. That's how an employee of the Nevada
Gambling Commission found out how to predict payoffs on a Keno
machine. He would have made off with a $100,000 Keno jackpot in
New Jersey, except that his accomplice didn't have any ID on him
when he went to collect, and the casino security people went up
to the hotel room with him.

Similarly, a really amazingly bad on-line poker system used a
random number generator which was incapable of producing all
possible decks of cards. That and a few other idiocies in design
allowed a gambling security company to build a system that could
synchronize itself to the system's random number generator, and
thus know every card in every hand on every deal.

The best-regarded random number generators use quantum noise in
electrical circuits, or some other genuinely unpredictable
physical process. There are no random mathematical processes.

"Anyone who considers algorithmic methods for creating random
numbers is, of course, in a state of sin."--John von Neumann

Edward Cherlin
Generalist & activist--Linux, languages, literacy and more
"A knot! Oh, do let me help to undo it!"
--Alice in Wonderland
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Received on Thu Jun 30 23:17:08 2005

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