New Sources of Random Numbers

Need some hot random numbers? You can get some purportedly genuine (not psuedo) numbers from Hotbits. There are some diverting pages there describing how the author (who appears to be John Walker of Neuchatel, Switzerland) built a small apparatus that uses a Geiger-Muller counter and a Krypton-85 radiation source to do the trick, and there appears to be enough detail for the home hobbyist to replicate his work -- or you can just download the bits from their site. If you want to use the random numbers for encryption, there has been some discussion in the RISKs forum discussion of the risks of having a good random number source but an untrustworthy connection to it. See Risks issues 18.89 - 18.93 available here.

A descripton of a more colorful (and bizarre) scheme for generating random numbers from Lava Lites also surfaced recently on the Internet. An article attributed to Mark Frauenfelder and entitled "Lava Lites: Easy to Break, Hard to Crack" describes a scheme said to have been developed by Landon Curt Noll, a cryptologist and number theorist with Silicon Graphics, along with his colleagues Robert G. Mende Jr. and Sanjeev Sisodiya. Six Lava Lites in different colors are set up in front of a digital camera, which takes a snapshot of them periodically. The digital image is run through a one-way hash-function to produce an 800-bit seed, which is used as the starting value for the "Blum Blum Shub" pseudorandom generator. According to the article, which was dated well in advance of 1 April, the authors are attempting to patent the ideas behind the technology.