[Beowulf] OT: public random numbers?

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Thu Aug 11 21:31:30 PDT 2011

On Thu, 11 Aug 2011, David Mathog wrote:

> Since this is very OT, I'll try to keep it short.
> Here is the problem - imagine a group of people who neither know nor
> trust each other, yet must agree on the fairness of a single random
> number.  Basically they are going to have a lottery.  They aren't
> organized enough to generate such a number themselves - it must be found
> from some process already active on the web, and be so obviously "fair"
> that they won't argue about that.  Everybody must be able to obtain it
> freely from a web connection.




> Can any of you think of a source on the web for a set of small files
> with these properties:
> 1.  from a trusted source (here this mostly means the data is generated
>    for some other innocuous purpose)
> 2.  represents a largely random process (temperature readings,
>    stock market values, etc.) with a set generated at known intervals,
>    preferably daily (at least M-F)
> 3.  are never, ever, revised
> 4.  are distributed reliably (for instance, signed files)
> 5.  are publicly and freely available
> 6.  can be obtained reliably (is available from many sites)
> So far I have looked at stock market values and weather data - without
> much luck.
> You would think the S&P 500 is the S&P 500 and one could look it up on
> any site and get the same data.  Not so! Check the Yahoo and Google
> financial sites for the first few weeks of Jan. 2011 and you will find
> digits that differ between the two sites in every single column.  Not
> every day mind you, but often enough that it isn't reliable.  Heck, the
> volume numbers differ by large factors between the two sites.  So just
> choose one site and go with that?  Not so fast - if the single source
> goes down the data is unavailable, and there is no guarantee that the
> site (which is not party to this particular use of their data) might not
> revise the page or choose to block it entirely.
> Or weather data, right?  Lots of random bits there and we trust NOAA.
> But good luck with criteria 3-6.  In particular, they don't give data
> out for free.  In theory no US Government site should, since they are
> supposed to charge to recover distribution costs.
> Criteria 4-6 are typical of software distributed on mirror sites, but so
> far I have not found any physical measurements which are distributed in
> a similar manner.
> Thanks,
> David Mathog
> mathog at caltech.edu
> Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech
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Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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