Random numbers are useful for a variety of purposes, such as generating data encryption keys, simulating and modeling complex phenomena and for selecting random samples from larger data sets. They have also been used in literature and music, and of course used all the time in games, lotteries and gambling.
But generating random numbers with computers is hard, because computers are predictable. Computers strictly follow instructions and programs written by humans and the programs itself follow strict logical steps and therefore completely predictable. A computer does not randomly execute instructions. In fact, that would be a horrible thing if it does. So how does one make a computer generate random numbers?
There are two main approaches to generating random numbers using a computer -Pseudo-Random Number Generators (PRNGs) and True Random Number Generators (TRNGs).
PRNGs are algorithms that use mathematical formulae or simply pre-calculated tables to produce sequences of numbers that only appear random. But in realty they are not. PRNGs also tend to be periodic, which means that the sequence will eventually repeat itself. While they might be fine for many purposes but very unsuitable for applications such as data encryption and gambling where unpredictability is of importance.
To generate true random numbers we need to extract randomness from physical phenomena and introduce it into a computer. Some examples of random physical phenomenon that can be connected to a computer are radioactive source decays, lava lamps and atmospheric noise.
White Noise (atmospheric noise) is an example of true randomness
Random.org is web service that employs the last approach. It uses a radio to pick atmospheric noises and uses that information to generate random numbers. Random.org has several types of different random number generators that you can use for research, to organize lotteries or sweep stakes or just for fun.
Try out this simple Random Integer Generator. You can change the Min and Max range to your own values.
There are many more generators like
- Coin Flipper
- Die Roller
- Playing Card Shuffler
- Lottery Quick Pick
- Keno Quick Pick
- Jazz Scale Generator
- Bitmap Generator
- Sound Generator
- Integer Generator
- Sequence Generator
- String Generator
- List Randomizer
- and more