In DepthComputer Science

Random number generators go public

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Science  29 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6396, pp. 1383-1384
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6396.1383

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Summary

On 10 July, researchers in Chile will unveil an online public random number service. Later in July, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will launch its Randomness Beacon as a permanent service, upgrading a pilot program that began in 2013. Brazil, too, is planning a beacon, by the end of 2019. All aim to improve on commercial random number generators, not only by being free, but by generating the random numbers through transparent protocols and permanently archiving them. The services could benefit everyday applications such as cryptography and lotteries—and also research. Some scientific simulation methods rely on random numbers, and clinicians could use them in drug trials to fairly assign who gets a treatment or placebo.