Friday Squid Blogging: Diplomoceras Maximum

Diplomoceras maximum is an ancient squid-like creature. It lived about 68 million years ago, looked kind of like a giant paperclip, and may have had a lifespan of 200 years.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Posted on November 27, 2020 at 4:33 PM139 Comments


vas pup November 27, 2020 5:51 PM

Algorithms: Public sector urged to be open about role in decision-making

“A government advisory body said greater transparency and accountability was needed in all walks of life over the use of computer-based models in policy.
Officials must understand algorithms’ limits and risks of bias, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation said.

“Government, regulators and industry need to work together with interdisciplinary experts, stakeholders and the public to ensure that algorithms are used to promote fairness, not undermine it.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office urged organizations to consult guidance on the use of artificial intelligence.

“Data protection law requires fair and transparent uses of data in algorithms, gives people rights in relation to automated decision-making, and demands that the outcome from the use of algorithms does not result in unfair or discriminatory impacts,” it said.”

vas pup November 27, 2020 5:56 PM

Your data and how it is used to gain your vote

“The Cambridge Analytica scandal threw light on how the Facebook data of millions was harvested and turned into a messaging tool.
The revelations were criticized far and wide by politicians of all stripes.

But now, a report from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) puts the spotlight on the relationship between data brokers and the politicians here.

Even limited information can be used in surprising ways, the ICO report found.

For example, buying someone’s name can lead to making guesses about their income, number of children and ethnicity – which is then used to tailor a political message for them.

The report suggests that the Conservative Party is doing just that, using so-called “onomastic data”: information derived from the study of people’s names which could identify their ethnic origin or religion.

=>It has done that for 10 million voters, most of whom will be unaware of exactly how their information is being used.

=>Political parties can legitimately hold personal data on individuals to help them campaign more effectively.
============>But sophisticated data analytics software can now combine information about individuals from multiple sources to find more about their voting characteristics and interests – something some people may find disturbing.

“Data collection is out of control and we need to put limits on what is collected,” says Lucy Purdon from Privacy International (PI).”

Agree 100% – vp

yet another Bruce November 27, 2020 6:22 PM


On the subject of everyone’s favorite resource exhaustion attack. Are you gonna make level 40 on Pokemon Go by the end of the year?

xcv November 27, 2020 7:57 PM


It lived about 68 million years ago, looked kind of like a giant paperclip, and may have had a lifespan of 200 years.

Popular scientific discovery reported to order.

Now we’re miscreants for supporting T and we have squid records that would be disastrous if we were ever to apply for employment anywhere in the jurisdiction of our scientific climate change overlords, or else it’s off to the gas chambers and crematoriums for us.

Dude November 28, 2020 3:41 AM

@ America the censored
Let’s assume you’re right – what do you purpose can be done about this dismal state of affairs?

MarkH November 28, 2020 4:46 AM

This is rather off to one side, but I suppose relevant enough to include.

Reading about the post-election litigation makes it clear that the work products of the Trump legal team are

• freighted with substantive errors

• devoid of evidence which courts can accept in establishing a factual record

• littered with spelling errors, and at least one sentence of such tortured grammar that its meaning can’t be discerned

It’s been a tsunami of incompetence.

But in the past week, they committed a truly spectacular legal error which any law school student would understand is damaging to the client.

To the extent that there has been a guiding strategy behind the litigation, it has been to get an election case before the Supreme Court, so that the three justices appointed by Trump could participate in a potentially corrupt ruling in Trump’s favor, no matter how weak the case. This is not speculation on my part: as usual, Mr Trump has spelled out what he hoped would happen.

[It’s worth noting that this was a desperate plan in any case, because they’ve made no plausible legal argument; but on the other side, had the election come down to a single swing state with evidence of enough problems to change who won the electoral college votes, SCOTUS might now be sufficiently corrupt to steal the election for Trump.]

A few days ago, Trump’s legal eagles announced that they had a case (their current Pennsylvania litigation) to send up the appellate ladder toward the Supreme Court. However, they are so incompetent that they didn’t get the substance of their case ready for appeal, but rather a narrow procedural question (namely, whether they can amend their original complaint a second time). The Pennsylvania court said “no, you already amended it.” So even if this were appealed all the way to SCOTUS, all the conservative majority there could do would be rule “yes, you can amend it again” or “no you can’t.” [In general, appeals courts can only affirm the ruling of the lower court; overturn that ruling; or send the case back to the lower court with instructions to weigh it again.]

The Supreme Court would have no opportunity to rule on the merits of the Trump claim that some Pennsylvania votes should be discarded even though they were cast legally. A victory would be useless, because the second amended complaint would be thrown out again by the lower court, being another evidence-free rehash of the first two versions.


To bring this back nearer to the heart of Bruce’s essay, it seems from my observation that governments deeply committed to rule by the people tend to highly value knowledge, experience and expertise.

In contrast, anti-democratic (authoritarian) regimes are more prone to confer authority on — or otherwise employ — incompetents, charlatans, peddlers of conspiracy theories and simple grifters whose only focus is extracting cash.

Clive Robinson November 28, 2020 5:37 AM

@ MarkH,

… and simple grifters whose only focus is extracting cash.

That appears to be the real reason behind the court cases.

After all how much do you think “Dear simple Sidney” is billing for her work?

Especially as others have found it does not appear to be “Dear simple Sidney’s” work… But somebody else, a clear “Cut-n-Paste Queen”, with a missing “Z” and a “chardonnay name”[1]. I wonder if she looks both ways when she crosses the road, at her time of life? As others have noted sometimes a bus can be hard to see when it’s heading your way…

[1] A lovely expression from England before the turn of the century when “Friends” was still new and Starbucks was just a spin off of Melville’s Moby Dick. It implied some one who who might also now be called a WAG that drank copious quantaties of cheep white wine and changed their names to sound what they thought was more trendy. Usually this involved putting an “i” on an abbreviated form of their first name. As one caustic observer at the time noted “The only time “I” comes last in their lives”.

Curious November 28, 2020 6:21 AM

@America the censored

How about being polite? I am European and so I probably do not share the views of perhaps most of people in North America on a variety of topics (to say the least), but I don’t pretend that people reading this blog is interested in mere opinin pieces that would be more off topic than something related to security.

I’ve noticed a couple of times of stuff never showing up, and I can’t tell if maybe a moderator nixed it, or something else happening to it.

Btw, I used to trawl through 200+ twitter accounts every day looking for computer security related news, as some kind of guilty pleasure looking for scandalous news, but now, Twitter has limitations that makes this a lot less fun for me, making me have to wait before I even see a single twitter post for any new twitter tab I choose to switch to once the limitaton is reached.

nonce cat November 28, 2020 6:53 AM

@vas pup

Most news is negative. So says the old adage “Man plans, God laughs”, or was it “No news is good news”?

Light reading for the holidays.

available freshwater resources have declined globally by more than 20 per cent per person over the past two decades

COVID-19 could distract the world from even greater threats

The research led by Thomas Homer-Dixon at the University of Toronto has focused on how environmental scarcity leads to certain destabilizing social effects that make violence more likely.

More detailed reports on the scarcity of resources and resulting security implications are harder to access. Occasionally you can get lucky, so check all the usual organizations publications, as they do post them on their web platforms.

Czerno November 28, 2020 9:27 AM

Doubts over the Oxford vaccine-candidate :


What’s the opinion of our esteemed resident universal “experts” ? @Clive ? @Others ?

Clive Robinson November 28, 2020 9:28 AM


Zero postings about EDP security. Just pointless drivel.

Well there you go just adding to the latter, not the former.

But a point to note this page opened less than a day ago on “Black Friday” a holiday for some and a busy day for others and today many people are likewise busy[1].

Hardly surprising there are no real Electronic Data Processing(EDP) or Information and Communications Technology(ICT) security postings. Because it’s that little “silly season” where you get “slow or no news days” for the MSM or more specialized news outlets.

But why should I let you play the green to the gills moany old Grinch?

Two different but similar big service outage reports,

Now there you go something to think about, oh and for you to make comnent on as to where they went wrong and how you could have prevented it all, as you obviously have way too much time on your hands and are just moaning not even creatively.

[1] Which begs the question “Why are you not busy”? And before you ask I’m still self isolating.

Clive Robinson November 28, 2020 11:15 AM

@ Czerno,

Doubts over the Oxford vaccine-candidate

It’s a poorly carried out smear.

The Oxford vaccine passes the WHO efficacy standards at both the 50billion and 25billion doses.

As for the half dose plus full dose, this happened to only one small group and it showed efficacy around 90%. Whilst the other groups on two full doses showed efficacy around 63%.

Oxford And Astra are now recruiting more people to do further half+full and it’s said potentially half+half groups in a much larger size.

Because for obvious reasons, if they can find an as effective or better dosing with less vaccine, then more people can be vaccinated for the same amount of vaccine produced. That means getting it into more arms world wide faster, thus hopefully bringing the end of this pandemic faster.

The two US modified RNA (mRNA) vaccines are at best going to only be available to some first world nations. Not only are they nearly ten times the price for the vaccine, the required “chill chain” at -70C is dangerous in of it’s self and requires all sorts of expensive technology that has not yet been developed. The Oxford vaccine however can survive in an ordinary fridge for months, to get it to peoples arms requires only “cool bags snd ice blocks” of the sort many use for picnics, thus is not just safe and inrxpensive, they are readily available now and in most parts of the world such vaccine “chill chains” are already in place.

As for the author going on about the now fully discredited HCQ even with zinc, it shows the author is either significsntly biased for some reason or not upto doing actuall basic research.

I strongly feel that the authorvis biased, that is they are quite deliberatly pushing a political or other such as anti-vax line for some reason they have not declared. Thus rather than “go with the science” they are going for an ad hominem attack against an individual.

But is it just anti-vax, I suspect not as they have not mentioned the mRNA vaccines at all. Thus I suspect it must be specifically a US / Politics related bias or even the gruby business of profits for US big phama…

Oxford / Astra unlike the US companies are not making a profit and are encoraging others to make the vaccine localy thus the current price which is about 1/10th of the US companies will drop further. Also when you look at costs so far the two US companies have consumed billions of US tax payer dollars the Oxford / Astra has consumed only a small fraction of those sums.

The US companies have been trying for years to get mRNA therapy to work, and they hope to turn it into a highly patented cancer cure. As a treatment mRNA is not only new it’s untried and quite radical, and there is absolutly no data on it’s longterm safety nore will there be for a decade or more. The Oxford / Astra vaccine whilst new is based on well tried and tested principles and is a modification to a chimpanzee cold virus.

I’ve already said I will not have the mRNA vaccine, simply due to the fact that I realy do not trust the mechanism behind which it works for safety. However if my Dr sent me a letter tommorow asking me to come in for the Oxford vaccine I’d roll my shirt up before putting my coat on.

Oh one thing else to consider. During the mRNA trials some in the test group did get COVID and did end up in hospital. With the Oxford vaccine whilst some in the test group did get COVID NONE went into hospital. This tends to suggest that whilst the vaccine might be less effective than the mRNA vaccines at stopping infection, it is not an “all or nothing” that is those that got COVID probably got it a lot less severely than the mRNA failures…

But we are still a month or more away from getting a needle in our arms, whilst the efficacy stage of the phase three testing is over, there is still the two month additional safety trials to complete. Thus realistically most of us are not going to get the shot in the arm befor spring next year.

Which brings up the issue of getting through “flu season” information we have suggests that having both flu and COVID together is realy a very bad idea. So as this years flu shot is a quadriplex it might be worth getting a flu shot as soon as possible. Certainly in the US where flu is alrrady on the rise, earlier and faster than expected.

JonKnowsNothing November 28, 2020 11:24 AM

@Clive @Czerno @All

re: Oxford and other drug trials

disclaimer: I am not a MD. I am not direct researcher. Any opinions are just that.

If you do not expect that there will be “blips and dips” in vaccine and other therapy research, you might want to reset your thinking about this.

Things are rushed and there are corporate neoliberal economic reasons for that, as are the pump and dump stock market hype-up and beat-down.

Somewhere in between is some useful information.

Lots of science happens “by accident” and some famous myths have been told about “falling apples” but it takes effort to recognize why and how and of what value that is.

I have not seen the actual data report for the Oxford trials (expected to be published soon) nor have I seen any data on the mRNA trials although I’ve seen it reported that it is “published somewhere”.

The is a reason why “trials are called trials” and a vaccine is not going to return the world to PRE-Covid-Utopia, even if it was a slam-dunk on the first go round. There are 150+ vaccines in the pipe line and we know of 5. 3 of which are vying for First To Market-First To Capture The Market. 2 of the 3 are high priced drugs and 1 is low cost.

There is the “faux-urgency” of the UK Govt setting up Mass Vaccination Areas to be ready in 10 days to start jabbing people with (fill in the blank).

Even a basic read of that should raise up a Turkey Induced Sleep eyelid.

There are attempts to re-frame safety and efficacy trials as being “anti-vax or hesitant-vax” when SAFETY is being dumped aside with the dream-state of

“It will all be over by Christmas when Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come will be banished by another big turkey dinner”.

A good review of the problems with Dengue Fever virus and vaccines should be enough for anyone to think carefully about economic-driven medical decisions.

ht tps://

ht tps://
ht tps://
ht tps://

(url fractured to prevent autorun)

JonKnowsNothing November 28, 2020 11:57 AM

@Clive @Czerno @All

re: Other COVID-19 treatment research

There are 3 areas of research for COVID-19 (and others)

1, prevention aka vaccinations
2, treatments aka pills and potions
3, exposure reduction aka masks, distance, wash-up,D3

There’s been more press about Option 1 vaccination but there are some good reports about Option 2 treatments.

One focus is on developing a protease-inhibitor for COVID-19. Protease inhibitors are administered early after infection and can prevent the virus from from accessing protease from the infected cell. Viral protease is different from Human protease.

Coronavirus Family protease locations are already known and the COVID-19 version is very similar.

Experimental tests have already shown a half-dozen inhibitor candidates targeting just the SARS-CoV-2 locations.

Vaccines are only partially successful and Vaccine Failure is the other half of the “effective rate” (eg 90% effective ~ 10% failure). Protease-inhibitor therapy may be of help for those who have vaccine failure or cannot take the vaccine due to other complications.

search: / PF-00835231 / 3CL / protease / P-glycoprotein

ht tps://

ht tps://
ht tps://

ht tps://

ht tps://

ht tps://

ht tps://
(url fractured to prevent autorun)

Winter November 28, 2020 1:32 PM

“Oxford And Astra are now recruiting more people to do further half+full and it’s said potentially half+half groups in a much larger size.”

The new tests do not have to delay registration of the vaccine. This is only about the claims of high efficacy for specific dosages.

The original doses had an efficacy of 60%, which was enough in itself. These tests were done correctly.

And about the anti-vaxxers. This also an exercise in evolution and natural selection. Sane people avoid anti-vaxxers.

Faustus November 28, 2020 2:29 PM


To bring this back nearer to the heart of Bruce’s essay, it seems from my observation that governments deeply committed to rule by the people tend to highly value knowledge, experience and expertise.

In contrast, anti-democratic (authoritarian) regimes are more prone to confer authority on — or otherwise employ — incompetents, charlatans, peddlers of conspiracy theories and simple grifters whose only focus is extracting cash.

You summarize why supposed experts scare the pants off of me and why they will continue to have limited influence in any real democracy, which is of course a system that gives every citizen an equal voice and therefore cannot be run by experts. What you describe is a dystopia, not a democracy.

To run it down:
1. The absolute arrogance of your statements.
2. Their simplistic world view.
3. The evidence free nature of everything you say.
4. Your need to censor other views because you cannot successfully defend your position.

Anybody with the simplest understanding of science understands that advances are almost always counterintuitive and contrary to the opinion of the day’s experts. A practice that forbids alternate views is simply authoritarian politics, not science. Enforcing such expertise will invariably hurt real scientific progress and turn objective scientists into babbling politicians. See: The Soviet Union.

“Oh, but what about the children?” and other security theater greatest hits: we should reread Bruce’s early books. I was surprised when Bruce shifted from critique to participation in this theater but we live in a world where objectivity is weaponized against you, so I don’t hold it against him. I still sense his essential honesty, for example in even allowing this discussion to occur, when I am sure he is under.pressure to censor.

@America the censored: I agree. We could use more Bill Hicks right now.

Czerno November 28, 2020 3:09 PM

Interesting official information° site about the Russian vaccine “Sputnik V”.


° or shall we say propaganda ? I’m not taking sides…

«The Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology is the world’s leading research institution. The center was founded in 1891 as a private laboratory. Since 1949 it bears the name of Nikolai Gamaleya, a pioneer in Russian microbiology studies.

Gamaleya studied at the laboratory of French biologist Louis Pasteur in Paris and opened the world’s second vaccination station for rabies in Russia in 1886. In the 20th century, Gamaleya as one of the heads of the center fought epidemics of cholera, diphtheria and typhus and organized mass vaccination campaigns in the Soviet Union.»

vas pup November 28, 2020 3:48 PM

@Bruce and @Clive in particular
A biochemical random number

“True random numbers are required in fields as diverse as slot machines and data encryption. These numbers need to be truly random, such that they cannot even be predicted by people with detailed knowledge of the method used to generate them.

Scientists have generated a huge true random number using DNA synthesis. It is the first time that a number of this magnitude has been created by biochemical means.

Please read the whole article for details – you’ll like it.

My attention was on this part:

“The main aim of ETH Professor Grass and his team was to show that random occurrences in chemical reaction can be exploited to generate perfect random numbers. Translating the finding into a direct application was not a prime concern at first.
===>”Compared with other methods, however, ours has the advantage of being able to generate huge quantities of randomness
!!!!!that can be stored in an extremely small space, a single test tube,” Grass says. “We can read out the information and reinterpret it in digital form
==>at a later date. This is impossible with the previous methods.”

JonKnowsNothing November 28, 2020 4:11 PM

@Czerno @Clive @All

re:Sputnik V and Chinese COVID-19 vaccines

I have only read articles distantly referencing these. There may be a lot more that is not on the front page of Western News Media.

China has at least 2, maybe more vaccines and they have given them to large segments of their population. There was a dust up over some Chinese miners flown in direct from China to work in a China owned mine in a host country, where the miners would live and work inside their own perimeter. The host country turned back the flight because of the lack of information at that time. It maybe that the Chinese Government has had direct talks with the host government since that report.

Russia also as at least Sputnik V and given that to a lot of their population.

Both China and Russia have supplied their vaccines to other countries.

There are several things that I think you can use as a gauge to how well these are working.

A) There are the “official” infection numbers. Given that everyone is fudging as much as they can, one might expect there to be a swift downturn in new infections 30+ days after a major vaccination event.

If there has been anything dramatic in that regard it has not made the Front Page where I am, and the latest images of the ice skating rink in Moscow, Russia; shifted to an overflow hospital certainly didn’t look like things were slowing down. (images from @11/20/2020)

China has reported they have a good handle on “eradication” and all MSM reports of any outbreaks there show they clamp down ASAP and stay clamped for the eradication time table.

For countries that follow eradication + vaccination there should be very little in the way of major outbreaks except in cases similar to the Dengue Fever Virus Vaccination Catastrophic Failure or a failure in isolating incoming visitors in appropriate quarantine facilities.

B) The other item to note, particularly about China affecting all aspects of anything there that might be contagious, such as ASFV and Avian Flu as well as COVID-19, their workers are now moving and living inside a biological-secured compound. They go in through a strict quarantine and testing period and are housed inside the compound. Some workers (hog farms) also pass through a second quarantine for a 10-14day work cycle inside a second inner bio-secured perimeter.

China has certainly learned that eradication also includes continuous no-contamination protocols. In the case of ASFV, AvianFlu etc, their food production demands it, as there are no vaccines or cures for these. They have vast historical experience with famines which they would like to avoid repeating.

The USA – no so much.

ht tps://

ht tps://

ht tps://

ht tps://

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

(url fractured to prevent autorun)

Anders November 28, 2020 4:30 PM



xcv November 28, 2020 5:10 PM

@vas pup “True random numbers are required”

In any quantity or bandwidth, you need a source of ionizing radiation and a detector. A chunk of americium-241 from a consumer residential smoke detector, and a repurposing of some of the other electronics might help.

That isotope emits alpha particles with an energy insufficient to penetrate smoke particles in the air to hit the detector, and the alarm is sounded if alpha particles stop hitting the detector.

Find a way to count the alpha particles, or find an interval of time such that the probability of an alpha particle hitting in that time is p to produce a bit with entropy

H = p ln (1/p) + (1-p) ln [1/(1-p)]

metaschima November 28, 2020 5:18 PM

@Clive Robinson

You’re a smart man, the Oxford/Astra vaccine is the only one I would get. I’m a healthcare worker and I know a good bit about these things, and you’re absolutely right. This is the first mRNA vaccine to ever be used on humans, not only that but look at the companies that are making them. Moderna is a biotech bubble company, either that or a front for a secret intelligence organization. They are extremely secretive with their projects, they don’t release many articles nor get them peer reviewed, they have received billions upon billions of dollars but have nothing to their name! Oh until now… All of a sudden they miraculously come up with a vaccine that is 90+% effective with totally new and untested technology. Technology I might add that was not too long ago pretty much abandoned because of the years of research needed to actually make something that works and is safe. Oh and this company Moderna is very very new to the scene, like 8 years in the business. I wouldn’t trust them to make a regular vaccine much less one with totally new and untested technology that has actually proven too dangerous to use in the recent past. I don’t know much about BioNTech, only that it’s a relatively recent startup in Germany and they have tried making mRNA vaccines in the past without much success.

Clive Robinson November 28, 2020 6:29 PM

@ xcv,

A chunk of americium-241 from a consumer residential smoke detector, and a repurposing of some of the other electronics might help.

It kind of works but the output rate is usually quite low at jist a few detections a second, and the number of detections per unit of time drops with time… The half life of americium 241 is 432.2 years (1.588 x 2^33 seconds), which sounds a long time but it’s not realy. We need random numbers up in the 512-8192bit range these days, that’s sufficient for the decay bias to be measurable. Thus you need to do further processing.

The search for realy good sources of unbiased random almost appears endless. However quantum sources are apparently the current “gold standard” but can be a right royal pain in the “care and feeding” department.

The real question is at the end of the day is “When does the bias matter?” to which the answer aboyingly is “That depends”.

If you are only going to generate one 8192bit number every month then the simple system you describe is probably sufficient. However if you are generating nore than one or two such numbers a day then it starts to matter.

Some people need billions of random bits a day, not only will such a system not generate sufficient bits, the half life bias would be measurable.

The thing you could say about random is “it’s never enough”…

xcv November 28, 2020 7:59 PM

@Clive Robinson

The half life of americium 241 is 432.2 years (1.588 x 2^33 seconds), which sounds a long time but it’s not realy.

There is something called a “time constant of relaxation”

τ = t1/2 / (ln 2) =~ 623.5 years

The time constant of relaxation is significant because it equals the ratio of the decay rate to the amount of radioactive substance left.

“Shot noise” from a resistor powered by a constant voltage should not in theory change or drift — and under certain circumstances each electron can be counted as it passes through the resistor — but I would not expect any given electronic device to continue functioning for hundreds of years.

Clive Robinson November 29, 2020 12:02 AM

@ xcv,

There is something called a “time constant of relaxation”

The time constant of relaxation is the exponential decay of a physical system in response to a step change, also called it’s “time charecteristic/constant”[1]

Often called tau or just “the time constant” it’s the same curve you see across a capacitor when discharged through a resistor. Most engineers simply remember it as 1CR = 63% 5CR=99% as that suffices from the practicality aspect.

The point is exponential decay is a curve that is defined by a constant percentage change in the y axia for a given change in the x axis.

It’s usualy easiest for most people to work out the exponential curve in their heads by percentage increasing (using shift and add)

So for 10%,

1, 1.1, 1.21, 1.331, etc.

The point is it does not matter what the % is the curve is always the same shape, you just scale it to fit.

So it does not matter where you are on the curve the change as a % remains constant no matter how small a time slice you take.

The half life is given as the point of 50% reduction[2] the time constant as ~63% reduction or more accurately 36.78794412% (1/e) remaining (and 5CR = (1/e)^5 = 0.6737947%).

With regards,

“Shot noise” from a resistor powered by a constant voltage should not in theory change or drift

It does not, provided the resistor does not change, but resistors are physical objects and ultimately follow the laws of entropy thus decay with time. Often but not always physical decay is an exponential process. As an example an iron wire has a certain resestivity which is markedly diferent to the oxides of iron. In an oxidative atmosphere the iron will turn to an oxide due to corrosion, this has it’s own “relaxation rate” which will obviously have a characteristic time or half life[3]. But the corrosion is a continuous process so the resestivity of the iron wire will continuously change as it turns into an iron oxide, thus the noise it produces as a resistor will likewise change.



[3] The nature of the corrosion rate, is exploited in the likes of “mines/grenades” and other “time delay” bomb pencil fuzes[4]. A wire holds back a firing pin against a spring, against the wire is a glass ampule of corrosive liquid. When the ampule is broken the wire is corroded at a rate depending on the corrosive strength and thus reaches a point where it can nolonger hold against the spring. The firing pin hits the percussion cap holding the primary explosive charge such as a metal fulminate causing it to go “high order”. The resulting shock wave causes the secondary charge explosive to go high order. Depending on the main charge explosive and it’s detonation charecteristics a third or fourth charge may be used for the likes of “explosive lensing”. In the US this is called an explosive train in the UK an explosive chain. In the case of bombs there are breaks in the explosive chain for safety that stop an early firing of the pistol / percussion cap reaching the main charge. Often called “an arming screw” the travel of the bomb –or torpedo– turns a propeller that moves the safety device via a screw thread such that the main charge will explode only when the bomb/torpedo is a safe distance from the launching vehicle.

[4] Many people think fuse and fuze are just spelling differences they are not. A fuse is a burning cord, wick or similar that acts as a time delay element. A fuze is what holds the trigger, explosive chain/train and safety devices as well as timing or range seting devices for the trigger. Part of a fuze may be the “pistol” which consists of the primary explosive initiator and a secondary or more charge and sometimes the trigger. In some mechanical fuzes used for anti-personnel devices the pistol may very well be a blank or incendiary round of amunition mounted in a trip-wire or similar firing pin trigger mechanism. The pistol or fuze are often removable for safety reasons and thus installed to arm the bomb, torpedo, or shell etc.

SpaceLifeForm November 29, 2020 3:55 AM

@ JonKnowsNothing, Anders, Clive, MarkH, ALL

And they want to dump into the ground.



MarkH November 29, 2020 4:15 AM

@xcv, Clive:

A chunk of americium-241 from a consumer residential smoke detector, and a repurposing of some of the other electronics might help.

It kind of works but the output rate is usually quite low at just a few detections a second, and the number of detections per unit of time drops with time

About 40 years ago, I was the shiny-faced lad in a small group that was supposed to work on the design and development of smoke detectors. As it turned out, we were mostly tasked with more hum-drum projects, but I did learn a few things along the way. Part of what I’m writing here is from memory, so apologies for anything out-of-date.


As it happens, smoke detector electronics wouldn’t be useful for random number generation, and probably the chamber wouldn’t be useful either.

The setup is designed to yield a small but steady current in clean air, which diminishes as the number of particulates increases inside the detector chamber. Which leads to:


I don’t know what kind of decay detector Clive had in mind when he wrote about a few detections per second, but the decay rate is much higher than that.

Back in the day when I worked on that stuff, the higher-quality detectors were using 400 nanocurie sources, but apparently 1 microcurie is still common today. If my arithmetic is good, then these two sizes correspond to roughly 15,000 and 40,000 alpha particle emissions per second, respectively.

I estimate that depending on the geometry of the source, its mounting, and the alpha particle detector, it’s probably practical to capture about 10% of these in the detector, for transit rates of at least 1000 alpha particles per second.

The limit on detections per second would likely be imposed by the recovery time of the detector; there’s a variety of ways to detect ionizing particles, and I don’t know the practical side of any of them. My intuition is that the simplest detectors are pretty slow, and the fastest detectors are pretty exotic …

For various reasons, it would usually be best to limit the frequency of alpha particles reaching the detector, probably to 1000/sec as an absolute maximum. I was told that the adhesive tape used in offices is opaque to the alpha emissions from 241 Am.

Which gets into a difficulty with using a smoke detector source for this application: the big clumsy alphas (which are actually helium nuclei), emitted at low energies, are so easily blocked that probably many detectors aren’t useful for them.


I don’t see why changes in the activity of the source as it decays need introduce measurable bias.

For example, suppose that each alpha detection triggers sampling of the low bits of a 100 MHz counter, and that detections are throttled by one means or another to an average of perhaps 10 to 100 per second. If intervals between detections could be very small, so that less than a few hundred nsec might elapse between them, then certain values of the least significant bits would become more likely. If however such close spacing is either extremely rare, or prohibited by design constraints, then what would cause one sample be correlated with any others?

In such a scheme, I would expect the gradual weakening of the source to lower its output rate, but not to introduce bias.

The parameters of such a system could reasonably be adjusted to generate between a few dozen and a few hundred output bits per second.

I suppose that such an output rate would be useful for a variety of applications.


Probably Clive could testify that although such a generator is conceptually simple, very great care is required in multiple aspects of design to ensure that output bits don’t become biased or correlated in some unexpected way.

And as I mentioned on another thread, for very high security applications, the combination of multiple generators and/or continuous statistical testing of generator outputs are precautions which are practical to do, and can provide a lot of protection against the most common failure modes.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons November 29, 2020 7:16 AM

29 NOV 2020 — Bunker Based Security Backed by Banal and Bananas Barrier Builder
The elites have mischaracterized some of their brethren and wrongfully understand that a shared corrupt affinity of wealth is common to themes between their interests and those expressed by D. J. Trump, they are not. Yes, elites interested in preserving their wealth and privilege are serviced by D.J. Trump, at least politically and culturally. But, if elites believe that D.J. Trump shares their aspirations and goals they are simply self-delusional. D.J. Trump shares no ones interest but his own.

So if you’re a person concerned about your political alignment within the context of a Trump head of state, don’t worry–D.J. Trump will make sure his cause is serviced irrespective of the who, what, where, and when. It is the why that seems to be so illusive to media and the intellectual class. The clarity to see how this might work out is born, ironically, by the deaths of hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens that will be accompanied by hundreds of thousand of other citizens in the not too distant future. This can be considered fact, the soon to be dead are already in the Covid pipeline. I don’t see how others dismiss the unforgivable act of deliberate inaction that results in so much misery. Can that not see that their fate is tied that of others, or do they understand themselves to have a “special” relationship. Well, if that’s the case why don’t people just call or tweet Trump and ask him.

So if you believe you’re protected by some status related to the Trump cabal, I have a number of mass grave sites and refrigerated trailers to show you. There is no person, cause, moral turpitude, position, reason, or humanitarian plea that offers anything but your breath plainly expressed as utter exasperation, and, possibly a medical misadventure and death. That may or may not include a ventilator in your near future. It depends more on you than one might rightfully understand.

Clive Robinson November 29, 2020 8:06 AM

@ MarkH, xcv, ALL,

I would expect the gradual weakening of the source to lower its output rate, but not to introduce bias.

As the source weakens the number of detections in a unit / period of time goes down and thus the average time between them goes up. That is a form of bias as the % increase in time period after time period remains the same irrespective of how long or short you decide to make the time periods.

So for your cycling counter the average count goes up by the same percentage time period after time period. When the counter “wraps around” you effectively get a sawtooth error function the frequency of which is directly related to the change caused by the % difference.

Such waveforms can “hetrodyne” with other sampling times and the lowest common frequency difference appear super imposed on the output as phase modulation.

If you have an oscilloscope and two medium or high frequency square wave oscillators, with one going to the D input and the other going to the CLK input of a D-type latch[1]. The Q outputs look chaotic or random close in, in fact they are anything but as you will see when you open out the time base far enough. Put the Q output through a lowpass filter or leaky integrator[2] and you get out a very pure sinewave at the lowest sub harmonic difference frequency. That is that chaotic looking signal is actually a high resolution Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) signal of a sinewave at the lowest difference frequency.

Thus even nano second differences in the timing counter chain fold back in the sampling domain to the lowest frequency quite sufficiently to significantly phase modulate the output. Thus your supposed “random signal” is phase modulated by that sawtooth caused by the % change per time period even if it is very very small.

The problem with phase modulation is most people can not see it for what it is when decimated by sampling. They tend to think of it as “random jitter” caused by noise thus potential entropy, which it is most certainly not.

It especially rears it’s ugly head in the sampling of “ring oscilators” that are standard in many CPU “TRNGs”. Because the phase modulation dominates the output, manufactures hide it from view by “sprinkling magic pixie dust thinking” on the problem by using crypto grade algorithms to obscure it. The result is if you do not know the “key” you will see what you think is high grade entropy. If you do have the key, then you see the PWM waveform with just a tiny bit of entropy. Which means you can phase synchronise with the wave form and turn what appears to be 256 bit of entropy into maybe 7 or 8 bits which turns an impossible brute force search into an easy brute force search…

I’ve mentioned this a few times in the past on this blog before, but I guess most people don’t understand the implications thus trnd to put it “out of sight” then the inevitable “out of sight out of mind” follows it’s usual path.

[1] If you don’t have the electronics and test kit to do this you can do it with a pencil and regular squared graph paper, or write a computer program to do the donkey work for you. If you are going to write a program I would suggest you use two phase accumulator Numericaly Controled Oscillators(NCO) as they are trivial to write and can give you a frequency resolution of very fine degree the more bits in length the phase accumulator has the finer the frequency step can be,

[2] An integrator is a mathmatical construct and can be seen as a “counter” counting the area under the curve. A leaky integrator removes certain types of bias and alows you to get an RMS zero for the waveform. You can use an up/down counter or similar to recover the waveform and then feed it to a D2A converter. Similar techniques work just as well in software.

xcv November 29, 2020 10:33 AM


“You summarize why supposed experts scare the pants off of me and why they will continue to have limited influence in any real democracy, which is of course a system that gives every citizen an equal voice and therefore cannot be run by experts. What you describe is a dystopia, not a democracy.”

Self-professed “experts” have far too many bright ideas about how to force us against our will to do things that we do not want to do, prohibit us against our will from doing things that we do want to do, and just generally punish us out of all our aspirations of success or achievement at anything in particular that we might want to accomplish in this life, or would do if we had the freedom.

That why Trump get al. reject advice of doctors. People who have studied hard and long to learn how to cure people should not be trusted. Better to listen to a real-estate tycoon when you want medical advice.

It would have been better for those medical school frat boys if they hadn’t gone to work to revoke our civil rights, destroy our working careers, ruin our lives, and prohibit us from entering relationships or having family of our own. Those are people who recklessly took on five or six-figure medical school debt, and then resorted to billing fraud, extortion, and violence to pay off their student loans, after they got “in too deep” with serious organized criminal Establishment medical practices of mass murder and routine mayhem hailing from medieval Europe and ancient Rome.

MarkH November 29, 2020 1:49 PM


To my understanding, the reasoning you cited for predictability/correlation is based on the periodicity of the signals.

What is less periodic than radioactive decay?

The predicate being removed, so also is the conclusion.

Did I miss something?

JonKnowsNothing November 29, 2020 2:52 PM

@Clive @SpaceLifeForm @ALL

re: Plague Houses Wave 2 or Wave 1b USA

In addition to the list Clive posted, @10 2020 the UK Government demanded that local councils to set up “dedicated positive COVID-19 care houses”.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has instructed councils to identify homes in their areas that could be used and to have them checked by inspectors to assure infection prevention controls are in place. As many as 500 facilities – sometimes known as “hot homes” – could be designated by the end of November, the equivalent of one or two in each council area.

iirc(badly) A recent report the UK Gov asked “how’s that going?” the answer was “None, No Specs, No Money”.

In the USA we have a slightly different aspect to the same dumping ground, one that I was 100% not aware of and the topic which was certainly missing from our High School Civic Classes. These are called “Federal Field Hospital or Federal Medical Station”.

Each FMS comes with a three-day supply of medical and pharmaceutical resources to sustain from 50 to 250 stable primary or chronic care patients who require medical and nursing services. Staffing for an FMS can be provided using displaced local, regional or EMAC providers, or can be provided by the federal government (primary federal staff are Officers of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps).

The US Surgeon General IS actually a “General Military Title” which is why the position wears a uniform. Silly me, I thought it was ’cause the person was a “general medical practitioner” and the uniform as like business-attire, purely cosmetic. Not so.

There’s a lot good things happening under the invisibility cloak, but the current iteration for Wave 1b is that some FMS will be used to dump COVID-19 positive patients that are TRIAGED/SOFA-scored out of local hospitals.

In theory this is to make room for possible survivors to get in-line for an attempt at medical care, but given the rules for TRIAGE from Wave 1a, this means dumping anyone they can out of the hospital.

Partially true; the local hospitals are overloaded, under-supplied and under-staffed (we did kill quite a few staff in Wave 1a) and none of that changed between the low-end of Wave 1a and the ramp up of Wave 1b (about 30 days in California).

The other part is in how the statistics are reported. If you don’t die in Hospital, it doesn’t show up on the Hospital Reports. If you don’t die in a Skilled Nursing Home or Care Center, it doesn’t show up on those obscured reports either ( [deaths more than 10] or [deaths more than 100] thresholds).

iirc(badly) A recent report about the “overload in the hospitals in UK”

The neoliberal++branch of Parliament asked

  How can we be overloaded? We built all those Nightingale Hospitals!!
  How many people are in the Nightingale Hospitals???!

the blond-unbrushed-scuffed-toe replied

  “Ah.. none. We don’t have anyone to staff them.”

Our local area has a 250 bed overload setup from Wave 1a, just like many urban centers built overflow systems during that time but we have no one to staff them either.

So USA Plague Houses will be out of sight, run from the Federal Government (currently Trump), waiting for Wave 1c in January 2021.

ht tps://

ht tps://
ht tps://

ht tps://
  Field Hospital Setup in the Baltimore Convention Center Date 27 February 2020

note: If you want to know about the US Federal Programs you have to go to the US Government Sites using High-Grade Google-Fu.

(url fractured to prevent autorun)

Cassandra November 29, 2020 3:05 PM

@Clive Robinson

Your point about using ring oscillator jitter in a ‘TRNG’ is interesting. What are your thoughts on this paper:


“A Provably Secure True Random Number Generator with Built-in Tolerance to Active Attacks”
B. Sunar, W. J. Martin, D. R. Stinson March 29, 2006

This paper is a contribution to the theory of true random number generators based on sampling phase jitter in oscillator rings. After discussing several misconceptions and apparently insurmountable obstacles, we propose a general model which, under mild assumptions, will generate provably random bits with some tolerance to adversarial manipulation and running in the megabit-per-second range.

I am not competent to criticise it.


Clive Robinson November 29, 2020 4:49 PM

@ MarkH,

What is less periodic than radioactive decay?

Quit a lot of things, schott noise, thermal noise, variois random walk physical systems, mixing/unmixing of oils and water one large scale of which is a lava lamp, the list is quite extensive.

Radioactive decay is very predictable, it closely follows a (1/e)^n curve when measured in the right way.

In effect the short average of the detection periods follows that curve very closely.

This also means that when the source is nearly all undecade isotopes the average delay between decays is very very short. As the decay happens this average time between decays increases significantly with time.

So you hypothesis is shown to be false, which means that,

The predicate being removed, so also is the conclusion.

The predicate is very clearly still in place as is the conclusion.

Do you realy need me to go on and explain why this would bias the counter output average thus appear in the TRNG output as a low frequency signal no matter how fast the counter runs?

Clive Robinson November 29, 2020 5:53 PM

@ Cassandra,

I started reading the paper and up to section 4 it says exactly the same as I’ve said on this blog one way or another several times over the years.

However the first sentance of section 4 brought me to a screaching halt and various other statments in section 4 made me shake my head sadly. I don’t think they have considered various technology issues. Not least of which is a CMOS inverter is provably an analoge amplifier with sufficient gain to be wired up like an inverting op-amp. This has been well known for half a century and if you look in the first edition Motorola Seniconductors 1973 Mc MOS Handbook Chapter 3A.1 it gives an indepth descryption and theory of the operation of an inverter treating it as what it is two complementary fets in an open loop amplifier configuration. Chapter 8B through 8D explain how to exploit the analog behaviour not just as AC coupled amplifiers but multistage gain blocks, noise generators, and oscillators inclusing ring oscillators… Something tells me the authors have not read it or a more modern version.

I shall carry on reading the paper but I’m not hopefull. They do not appear to have addressed a number of issues that I know cause problems. Not just what I mentioned with the fold back when using a D-Type latch but the issue of “injection locked oscillators”[1] where the current spikes caused by the output stage of a CMOS gate “passing through the output linear zone” gets back to the input circuit of other gates and effects them as they are “passing through the input linear zone” thus causing gates to start to fall into “lock step”. Normally with “clocked logic” this does not cause a problem but can increase metastability issues in latches. But is obviously very much a problem when you are looking at jitter on ring circuit edges as they start to correlate with each other.

There are several other things that concern me like their assumptions with XOR gates and their transition characteristics…

I will go through it ib more depth and get back to you.

[1] The fact that oscilators fall into lockstep has been known for centuries where pendulums were observed to do it and investigated by invebtor of the pendulum clock Christian Huygens who wrote a letter to London’s Royal Society about it in 1665.

JonKnowsNothing November 29, 2020 7:01 PM

@ Clive Robinson @ Cassandra @All

re:the fact that oscillators fall into lockstep has been known for centuries where pendulums were observed to do it

While the topic is seriously above my pay-grade, when playing video games where characters do repetitive actions-animations such has crafting 100 widgets, I’ve noticed that even if my toon starts an independent animation from adjacent toons, soon enough we are all animating in “lock step”.

ex: consider animation “banging on an anvil” consists: of:
  main hand move to get a hammer from pouch, main hand raises hammer, off hand places item on anvil, main hand hammer bangs the item with sync sound of “bang”, both hands return to neutral position.
  Repeat 100 times while adjacent to 100 other players.

I’ve seen this in other animated games where visually repetitive actions sync. I don’t know if the same conditions work in “text based games” with minor or no animation sequences.

There are client-server latencies and local graphics card specs so the sync on my local machine is not necessarily the same sync period as on another; each sync maybe independent of the other but on each machine they are in sync with themselves (2 boxing).

Is this perhaps related?

MK November 29, 2020 7:34 PM

If you only need a small supply of randomness, John Walker maintains a cache of random bytes produced by radioactive decay: hXXp://

xcv November 29, 2020 10:20 PM

@ MK • November 29, 2020 7:34 PM

If you only need a small supply of randomness, John Walker maintains a cache of random bytes produced by radioactive decay: hXXp://

That’s of course an interesting proof-of-concept for John Walker’s personal or educational research project — but we are more interested in reproducible research than just being served with someone else’s incarnation of it.

MarkH November 30, 2020 12:56 AM

@Clive, re radioactive TRNG:

I’m fairly certain that for the set {Clive, Mark}, the subset of elements misunderstanding the physics and/or mathematics of the matter has non-zero order.

MarkH November 30, 2020 1:21 AM

@Clive, xcv, et al.

I’m going to try to reason this through step by step, because it’s a pretty fundamental question — or rather, a set of fundamental questions. I ask your patience, because I think it best to build up via several separate comments.


Consider the simplest case of an unstable nucleus, tritium. It consists of only three persistent particles: a proton and two neutrons.

Based on the well-established characterization of this isotope, we know that any particular tritium nucleus is nearly certain to undergo spontaneous decay long before the universe experiences its eventual demise. More specifically, we know that in any 24 hour period, the probability of its decay is pretty nearly 0.000154 .

From this, we can plot a distribution curve of the probability density of elapsed times between the start of our observation of the nucleus, and its disintegration.

However, it is not possible to foretell the time of its demise. Before its arrival, the timing of that event is not only unknown, it is unknowable.

My knowledge of quantum mechanics is practically indistinguishable from zero, but …

If I understand correctly, even if we had “God’s microscope” and could observe that proton and its two neutron friends with uttermost precision — making measurements infeasible or physically impossible in a laboratory — we would still not be able to make any prediction of the time at which it will decay, apart from the simple probability curve mentioned above.

The time at which it will decay is both unknown, and unknowable.

Or to frame the same conclusion another way, the probability distribution is the best available basis for predicting the moment at which our ill-fated nucleus will cease to be. There exists no information anywhere in the universe from which a better prediction could be made, even with perfect knowledge.

If any reader believes that I’ve gotten the physics wrong here, it would be most generous of you to identify the error, and cite some reference we could all consult.

MarkH November 30, 2020 1:41 AM

@Clive, xcv, et al.


Imagine that at the stroke of midnight ending the annus horribilis called 2020, we began monitoring a single nucleus of an unstable isotope (like tritium in the example above), noting carefully the time at which it ceases to exist by way of spontaneous decay.

The probability of decay in any specified time interval remains constant, but when decay occurs the experiment ends, so a sooner moment is always more likely than a later one.

Accordingly, we know that the year of decay is biased to 2021 — this is substantially more likely than 2022 or any succeeding year.

Likewise, if we look at the name of the month at which decay will occur, it’s more likely to be January than any other month, because sooner is more probable than later. However, there’s quite a big likelihood that even short-lived tritium will survive 2021, so although January of 2022 or 2023 or 2040 is more likely than February in each of those years, the bias is less.

We could continue this for day numbers within the calendar month, with even smaller bias. Decay on the 1st is more probable than on the 28th, but only by a very small margin.

This pattern proceeds, as we go to finer and finer subdivisions of measurement. For example, the number of the second in the terminal minute of the nucleus — an integer in the range of 0 to 59 — will show nearly perfect uniformity; the bias becomes too small for measurement.

If any reader believes that I’ve gotten the math wrong here, it would be most generous of you to identify the error, and cite some reference we could all consult.


I’ll pause this chain of reasoning for awhile, and await the pointing out of any errors.

Indian November 30, 2020 1:44 AM

@Clive do ypu think we will get a choice ib third world country? How can we excersize are freedom in this aspect? If my educational institution allows only vaccinated to give the exam and a certain vaccine is chosen to be imported by the country then we wont have an option… Contact tracing is being forced in the same way

Winter November 30, 2020 2:12 AM

“If my educational institution allows only vaccinated to give the exam and a certain vaccine is chosen to be imported by the country then we wont have an option”

And if it did not do this? Why even bother with assuming the worst when there is no vaccine being offered, and no educational institute having these rules?

SpaceLifeForm November 30, 2020 2:28 AM

@ MarkH

One lone Tritium atom. Yep, no way to know when.
Useless for random.

Now, say you have 1000 Tritium atoms.

Do you really want to wait 12 years to get approximately 500 events?
And another 12 years to get approximately 250 events?

Using radioactive half-life for random is not practical.

Lava Lamps work and is safer. Also, check out random [dot] org.

FA November 30, 2020 4:42 AM


This pattern proceeds, as we go to finer and finer subdivisions of measurement. For example, the number of the second in the terminal minute of the nucleus — an integer in the range of 0 to 59 — will show nearly perfect uniformity; the bias becomes too small for measurement.

You are absolute right about this. There will be some bias, even if you assume that the average event rate does not slowly decrease. But it can be made as small as you want, and it’s easy to remove it.

Assume you have an counter running at a frequency F0, and take the lower N bits. That value is periodic (a ‘stepped sawtooth’) with period F1 = F0/(2^N).

Now let the average trigger rate generated by observing some nuclear decay be R events per second. The time between two such events will have an exponential distribution. Measured in units of 1/F1 (i.e. the sawtooth period) the PDF of this distribution will be P(x) = L * exp (-L * x), with L = R/F1.

Now assume L is very small. If you look at the value of P(x) in any interval of lenght 1 (one period of the sawtooth) it will be almost constant, the ratio of the extreme values being 1-L. So the differences between two consecutive sampled N-bit values will have a distribution that is very close to uniform, but with a small bias towards lower values, given by L. If L is small enough, even a simple whitening algorithm will reduce the bias to value that can’t be measured in a lifetime.

What is less periodic than radioactive decay?

Nothing. Don’t know what Clive is thinking, but the fact that a sequence of random events has a well-defined distribution, moments, or spectrum does not make it periodic nor predictable. Also ‘injection locking’ of oscillators has nothing to do with the original topic of using nuclear decay to generate random numbers.

Shaun November 30, 2020 4:58 AM


“Certainly in the US where flu is alrrady on the rise, earlier and faster than expected.”

I agree with you that getting a flu vaccine is a prudent decision this year and will admit it’s the first time in my long life I took that step but influenza is not rising faster than expected in the US this year. According to the CDC, it’s lower than usual at this time of year:

MarkH November 30, 2020 6:11 AM


Thanks for your response.


Perhaps you missed the part about carefully reasoning step by step. The example of a single nucleus is not a design proposal!

It’s sort of a thought experiment, by which I hope to explore and clarify the nature of nuclear decay.

Without a crystal-clear understanding of what happens when one nucleus decays, any attempt to reason about emissions from trillions of such nuclei runs the risk of coming to a false conclusion.

Step by step …

xcv November 30, 2020 7:37 AM


Indeed, no joke, but the writings of a disturbed and mentally ill mind. This could have been part of the dark episodes of “A Beautiful Mind”

How can you use such hideously foul language in a civilized discussion?

Winter November 30, 2020 8:08 AM

“How can you use such hideously foul language in a civilized discussion?”

Accusing Bill Gates and Elon Musk of attempted genocide without material evidence is not part of a civilized discussion and not even of a sane discussion. Especially if these accusations might hamper the delivery of medical aid to the victims of a pandemic.

Your personal “freedom” might be worth millions of innocent lives to you, potential victims are allowed to hold you to account for it by pointing out the disturbances of your mental state.

xcv November 30, 2020 8:21 AM


Especially if these accusations might hamper the delivery of medical aid to the victims of a pandemic

Really? The doctor’s still got a head on his shoulder and a brain in his thick skull, and he’s just got to deliver on that emergency order of anti-psychotics for a pandemic of “mental illness” and impose involuntary hospitalization for widespread hysteria with mass trials for civil commitment of patients/defendants?

Winter November 30, 2020 8:38 AM

“Really? ”

Yes, 250k American died, 1.5 million died globally. Looking away does not make the bodies go away.

Watch a Beautiful Mind what delusions can do to you. Take your pills.

SpaceLifeForm November 30, 2020 3:22 PM

@ MarkH, Clive

It’s sort of a thought experiment, by which I hope to explore and clarify the nature of nuclear decay.

As was my point. It was a thought experiment.

Here is the problem. The Universe is random, yet has interrelationships that appear to an observer to be known.

The Universe appears to be lazy, and not waste energy. Yet, Radioactive Decay requires that the Universe not be lazy.

The Universe must temporarily lend some energy to an atom that is unstable in order for it to decay.

When and why does it decide to do so?

Let’s say you have assembled a physical random number generator using unstable elements, and you can capture decay rates over whatever time interval you choose.

What Clive was saying is that bias will appear over time.

Now, consider if you moved your random number generator close to a Black Hole.

Are you sure that the Half-Life will not change from what you expected? November 30, 2020 3:54 PM

Interesting article about E2E encryption in the EC. Google might autotranslate the text into English. The PDF has been leaked to the German newspaper “Die Zeit”.

Once again, Germany is the leading force…

“EU will mit angel­sächsischen Geheimdiensten E2EE aushebeln”

“Five-Eyes-Geheimdienste sollen Europa helfen, Verschlüsselung zu umgehen”

BTW: If you do not want the click on an URL because of your “political beliefs”, then just leave it. Or get an appointment with a shrink.

1&1~=Umm November 30, 2020 4:10 PM


military encryption!?

If you’ld read the link…

Then you would have see it is “unsolicited service advertising” (actually a significan repeate offender). Which os possibly why @Moderator or @Bruce has pulled it.

As for “military encryption” remember as we all should know “In marketing even a ball of bovine scat can be given a polish”…

Normaly you would see @- flag it up over night for @Moderator, but @- appears to be missing in action for some reason…

1&1~=Umm November 30, 2020 4:33 PM


“Also ‘injection locking’ of oscillators has nothing to do with the original topic of using nuclear decay to generate random numbers.”

I do not think you’ve thought that through.

Casandra linked a paper and asked for clive’s comments on it.

He replied and clearly starts with,

“I started reading the paper and up to section 4 it says exactly the same as I’ve said on this blog one way or another several times over the years.”

It would appear clive responded to Casandra about the paper, not anything else. I’ve downloaded and looked at the paper and it is nothing to do with isotope decay. But it does have a D-type latch circuit clive talked about in it, driven by ring oscillators which clive indicated there were problems with.

Thus it appears there are atleast two topics being discussed and you have conflated them in error.

Is there anything else in error you have conflated?

MarkH November 30, 2020 5:37 PM

@Clive, xcv, et al.


Science and engineering incessantly refer to abstractions and ideals which have no counterpart in the material world. Though they’re not realizable, we rely on them because they are enormously useful for analytic purposes.

Examples from geometry include points and lines.

Mathematical analysis includes the concept of periodic functions, which are used extensively in many domains of physics and engineering, even though no physical phenomenon corresponds to the definition of a periodic function of time.

Phenomena we call periodic are, strictly speaking, quasi-periodic: they approximate periodicity over some finite interval.

Another idealism is the distinction between deterministic and non-deterministic phenomena. In principle, a system completely free from random behavior is deterministic, and everything else is non-deterministic.

In 1814, Pierre-Simon Laplace famously wrote that if it were possible to know at some moment the position and forces of every item of which nature is composed, then in principle it would be possible to calculate the entire future of the universe — a purely deterministic physics.

About a century later, the revelations of the “new physics” put paid to that. Quantum randomness acts everywhere at all times.

However, systems (like people, for example) can be assembled with stabilizing mechanisms able to overwhelm this cosmic randomness — temporarily.

A favorite model of an outwardly deterministic system is a mechanical clock, which (neglecting factors like frictional wear, material fatigue, and the effects of thermodynamics on available energy) can continue its quasi-periodic ticking indefinitely. Its gross behavior appears deterministic, although it is always subject to random influences within its own structure.

In general, we can understand most phenomena as hybrids of deterministic and non-deterministic processes.


What is interesting and important about nuclear decay, is that it is an exception to the hybrid character I just described: it is completely and purely non-deterministic.

More than that, the timing of nuclear decay is the exact embodiment of the mathematical definition of a function of a random variable: absolutely non-deterministic, and subject to a defined statistical distribution (in this case, that corresponding to equal probability in any given interval of time up to the moment of decay).

The timing of nuclear decay isn’t just an approximation to the mathematical ideal, or an excellent approximation, or even asymptotically converging to the mathematical definition — rather (insofar as present-day physics has understood nuclear decay) a perfect embodiment of the idealized mathematical object [1].

If any reader believes that I’ve gotten the math or physics wrong here, it would be most generous of you to identify the error, and cite some reference we could all consult.

@SpaceLifeForm: Sorry, that went over my old gray head.

[1] Equivalently, the definition of functions of a random variable is a perfect model of certain quantum phenomena; arguably this ordering is a better expression of the relationship between the two.

SpaceLifeForm November 30, 2020 8:21 PM

@ MarkH

We are on the same page basically.

I was just pointing out that we (collective we) really do not understand Physics fully.

SpaceLifeForm November 30, 2020 11:19 PM

The solar system follows the galactic standard—but it is a rare breed


“What more does it take to harbor life than being an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone? What is really special here on Earth and in our solar system?”

Single moon. Asteroid belt.

Earth would not be in this position without the Asteroid belt.
There would be no stable magnetic field without the Moon.

SpaceLifeForm December 1, 2020 1:02 AM

@ Clive, ALL

when you need to confirm you’re not a robot

If you can not laugh at this, you have not been paying attention.

“I’m afraid that’s timed out.”


Winter December 1, 2020 1:29 AM

“Earth would not be in this position without the Asteroid belt.
There would be no stable magnetic field without the Moon.”

But the points is that thare are arguably many other constellations that might result in a stable habitat.

For instance, there might even be a habitable moon circling a hot giant planet, comparable to the larger moons of Jupiter.

Also, “life” does not equal technological civilization. Microbes have entirely different possibilities than mammals. You can find them everywhere, eg, 3 km deep inside rock floors.

1&1~=Umm December 1, 2020 1:46 AM

“What link?”

The URL behind the name field.

A lot of the ‘unsolicited service advertising’ that comes in from Asia and other places over night uses the ability to put a URL in the name field to do their advertising by.

Usually just a look at the URL via mouse hover over is enough to tell you if the URL is a pesonal page or blog or some scam help line or worse trying to get it’s link noticed by search engines etc.

Some of the posters of such try to disguise the text of their post to blend into the background of the thread topic to avoid getting deleted. One way that is tried is to copy part of the text from a legitimate poster further up the thread.

Judging by some of the reports readers make to the Moderator they are quite eagle eyed about ‘unsolicited service advertising’ and catch the well disguised stuff most would miss.

From what I remember you got suckered by someone who has been trying to get the VPN rating service they were pushing onto this blog more permanently for quite a long time.

It’s quite a little battle going on under the surface of this blog with the attacking ‘unsolicited service advertisers’ and the defending moderators trying to get rid of the attackers. I don’t think many realise the work that goes on quietly in the background into keeping the attackers out thus the @Moderator/@Bruce deserve a word or two of thanks for a job well done. December 1, 2020 3:00 AM

@1&1~=Umm: You’re right. There’s indeed a URL in the name and that leads to some VPN.

Now, those are posts the mods really could take down.

Anyway, in this day & age, who falls for the VPN meme!

And the the military grade encryption BS. Was a red flag already 25 years ago.

FA December 1, 2020 3:33 AM


Thus it appears there are atleast two topics being discussed and you have conflated them in error.

The ‘conflation’ started here:

which, while presented as a comment on the ‘nuclear decay random generator’ idea, moves on to discuss

  • sampling one square wave by another,
  • D-type latches,
  • ring oscillators and TRNGs,

none of which have anything at all to do with the bias that MarkH asked about.

Is there anything else in error you have conflated?

If there is you are welcome to point it out.

1&1~=Umm December 1, 2020 4:17 AM


“The ‘conflation’ started here:”


You originaly said,

“Also ‘injection locking’ of oscillators has nothing to do with the original topic of using nuclear decay to generate random numbers.”

In the post you link to whilst there is mention of D-type latches and problems that people get taught when they look at the theory behind sampling there is absolutely no mention of ‘injection locking’. As a simple search in a browser window shows, the first mention of injection locking was in a post specifically talking about a paper, that also talks about the use of D-type latches, and not before.

An observation that might give rise to some one quoting the old quip of,

‘Me thinks you are trying to move the goal posts’

You made a mistake originaly, fair enough we all make them hence the quip ‘to err is human’, but then doubling down on it?

Just grin and say ‘Opps’ or if you like to be more formal ‘mea culpa’, none of us are perfect and we all say rumbustious sometimes colorful words or ‘WHO Put that there!!!’ when we stub our toes. The rest of us smile thankful it was not our turn.

MarkH December 1, 2020 5:19 AM


Though scientific knowledge — especially in the domain of the submicroscopic — is frequently expanded, nuclear decay (which for alpha emission is actually a form of spontaneous fission) seems to have been well understood for generations.

When I was a boy, I thought that the Manhattan Project scientists were doing, well, science. In many ways they were, but as far as I understand, in building The Bomb they did little to expand the theoretical basis of nuclear physics, which while very recent was already well established. Their core scientific work consisted of careful measurements of properties of certain isotopes — but most of what they did was practical application of existing theory, or in other words, engineering.

Since the mid 1930s, the theory of nuclear behavior has advanced, including models of the mechanical dynamics of large nuclei, the confirmation of already-predicted mesons and their role in the strong nuclear force, the incorporation of quarks into the theory of nuclear interactions, etc.

But to my knowledge, the scientific concept of how unstable isotopes behave hasn’t changed in 85 years. Throughout this time It has been clear that they spontaneously and non-deterministically decay, according to an invariant probability (for each isotope) per unit time.

Clive Robinson December 1, 2020 6:39 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

when you need to confirm you’re not a robot

Thank you for that I’m in need of a laugh or three…

Not feeling particularly “Compost ment-hay” at the moment, the broken foot is playing up again after going out to get food in, and it feels like I’ve a cold comming on in sympathy with the change in weather (add “cold and wet” to the usuall British weather of “damp and grey”, and you thought it was warm beer and bunions that made us miserable, nope it’s broken bones that act like “seawead”[2] and ache when it’s going to rain, so they ache most of the time 😉

Which would normally be managable by meeting friends up for an endless tea/coffee and meal with a chat and joke swap at our local “spoons”[1].

Of course what we should do as “security experts” is not laugh but nod sagely and point out that the two main offenders are Cloudflare and Google and neither should in any way be trusted. Then start shaking our heads sadly and muter into our beards about rampant AI and how it’s claiming we are supporters of political party X because we clicked on only Y boxes and went left to right not right to left etc etc.

Which of course saves us from COVID better than a lockdown because every one avoids us all the time as being “grumpy miserable old farts” 😉

But speaking of spoons and lockdown it’s not been possible due to a month long “lockdown”…

But to show the idiocy behind thinking in the powers that be… The lockdown ends this comming Wednesday so people can start Winter Solstice celebration shopping (oh the ecomomics of it, who can not but shead a tear for a lobbyist in fear of loosing their pay packet). Then… Many other sensible anti-pandemic-spread measures on travel and going to meet people etc are going to be lifted. Which will probably mean that by the time Rabbi Burn’s night / Australia Day[3] 25/26 Jan gets here we will be in another lockdown. But… based on their apparent current thinking that will get lifted for Valentine’s day and it’s weekend…

[1] Spoon’s is a sortened name for Weatherspoons’ which is a chain of pubs with reasonable beers at sensible prices and quite nice meals for the price you pay. Oh and just remember “spoons” can be said not just when you are sober or some what imbibing merry, unlike “weathers'” where those silent “aitches” and “s apostrophes” always trip your tongue.

[2] It was only fairly recently that medical science caught up with the reality that most knew by experience. When you break a bone and it heals it often does not do it properly and this makes it sensitive to slow changes in preasure such as you get with weather fronts. Much as some peoples filled teeth do, oh and nearly every one’s ears do to faster changes in preasure.

[3] Both celebrations arise from just 29years appart the first is Scottish Poet’s Birthday in 1759, the Second the supposed first landing of people on the Australian Continent in 1788. Thus Rabbi would have lived to see the first of many of his country men sent south for ever by the English. Thus for some a day of celebration followed by a day of reflection.

MarkH December 1, 2020 6:59 AM


Sorry about your foot … I know plenty of people who, through no fault of their own, can serve as “human barometers” by hurting when the pressure declines.

Probably I mentioned before that my daughter has been uncanny, making very specific predictions with better accuracy than the National Weather Service. She’s losing her magic powers, however, which seems to be part of the complex of usual brain changes when the hormones kick in.

One afternoon while we were out shopping she announced that there would be a thunderstorm. Not just rain, but specifically a strong storm. This particularly struck me, because (a) the afternoon was sunny with very little cloud cover, and (b) I had looked at the forecast not many hours before, which showed no rain.

Roughly half an hour later, the skies opened up in a heavy downpour with lightning and thunder …

Anyway, I hope your “pedal” barometer stops working and before long you’ll need to look at “the glass” to see how pressure is fluctuating.

Clive Robinson December 1, 2020 8:00 AM

@ MarkH,

Anyway, I hope your “pedal” barometer stops working and before long you’ll need to look at “the glass” to see how pressure is fluctuating.

I suspect that it will join all the others that are the “badges of honour” of a “misspent youth” of contact sports and wearing the green.

What they do not tell you in an army recruiting office is why if you are lucky enough to survive, as an NCO why you get “early retirement”. It’s because all those training and combat injuries you get not from actual fighting accumulate and slowely turn on you. So when you get towards 45 you are effectively just on the point of being on your last legs / feet / spine / other body part.

I see film clips of young soldiers “yomping” with packs well over a hundred pounds on their back, more on their webbing and in their sagging pockets. So unbalanced they are barely able to stand, yet some “red tab” staff officer in an air conditioned truck or building expects them to maintain a 5mile/hour speed to some target area and deploy potentially under fire…

I just think about how much they are “borrowing from their future” and how bad “the pay back will be”, a few faded medal ribbons are not much reward for what they will probably suffer.

Anders December 1, 2020 8:08 AM

@Clive, @SpaceLifeForm @ALL


FA December 1, 2020 8:50 AM

Spoon’s is a sortened name for Weatherspoons’ which is a chain of pubs with reasonable beers at sensible prices and quite nice meals for the price you pay.

And company magazines full of pro-Brexit and other right-wing drivel.

Anders December 1, 2020 9:45 AM

@Clive, @SpaceLifeForm @ALL

Follow-up. At least 350 GB data has been stolen.
Seems they used Drupal vulnerability.

MarkH December 1, 2020 12:11 PM

Arecibo Self-Demolition

A follow-up on the unique Arecibo Radio Observatory: sometime last night, the 900 ton instrument platform fell about 450 feet to the bottom of the natural “bowl” in which the reflector was constructed.

It is reported that no person was harmed.

SpaceLifeForm December 1, 2020 1:08 PM

Three pictures of Arecibo collapse


SpaceLifeForm December 1, 2020 1:46 PM

Arecibo tower damage

Two of the tower tops were snapped off as the rig swung into the rockface.

Here is a good pic of one of them.


SpaceLifeForm December 1, 2020 2:41 PM

Arecibo report from hXXps://

Apparently Tower 4 (towers are numbered T4, T8, T12 like a clock) also broke at the top. That is the tower which handled the cables that failed.

And there is building damage from falling cables.

“surveillance drones found additional exterior wire breaks on two cables attached to the same tower. One showed between 11-14 broken exterior wires as of Nov. 30 while another showed about eight. Each cable is made up of approximately 160 wires.”

Approximately 160? I would expect that to be absolutely known.

Clive Robinson December 1, 2020 3:19 PM

@ MarkH, Casandra, SpaceLifeForm, Winter, xcv, et al,

“If any reader believes that I’ve gotten the math or physics wrong here, it would be most generous of you to identify the error, and cite some reference we could all consult.”

This example should need no refrences as most get taught it in science at school.

“Brownian motion”

The path of the “individual” particles in the “working fluid” are considered currently as nondetermanistic. But the over all average behaviour easily predictable.

And the underlying cause is similar to that of isotope decay, in that energy is added to the particle in some way from the environment it is in.

In Brownian motion it is reversable and makes the particle vibrate more thus causes where possible an expansion in the working fluid (see Boyle’s Law and it’s implications to the statistical mechanics Ideal Gas Law). For obvious reasons isotope decay is not normaly reversable as both energy and mass are lost from the sample the particle is in.

Individually in both Brownian motion and isotope decay what individual particles do is currently beyond our ability to determine accurately.

However as I indicated and SpaceLifeForm pointed out more determanisticaly it is not the individial behaviours that are of interest but the “average” of such behaviours over time in a bounded volume or closed environment of the sample being tested or judged by measurment.

Whilst a Geiger-Müller(GM) tube can register some isotope decay it does not measure it all from the nominaly closed environment of an isotope sample and it can and does produce false readings from other sources in it’s proximity, including that super nova just down the road a few thousand light years back.

But have a think about how a Random Bit Generator(RBG) actually works. It is disinterested in singular isotope decay, because it is nothing more than a point in time that is effectively dimensionless. The RBG actually works with multiple decays giving two or more points in time that can be measured. That is some kind of time measurment is made either by counts per minute or time between counts from the GM tube (remember that a GM tube is bandwidth limited and has recovery time as well as other issues so the points it gives in time are actually not accurate but biased in some way).

As SpaceLifeForm pointed out succinctly the average effect of the counts changes very predictably with time. So predictably in fact scientists find it one of the most accurate ways to date closed environment objects.

Such predictability is almost the very definition of a “known bias” that some over optimistically think can be countered or negated in some manner. But there is a difference between knowing a bias is in a measurment system and removing the bias, and thereby lies the gap between theory and practice that hides a very large attack space, that may or may not matter depending on your application. For security it usually does matter to a very high degree (1 in 2^4096 for some Public Key crypto currently).

Which is why a bias of a very small amount on a 50:50 judgment normally goes unremarked in most measurment systems. But with each measurment judgment the bias accumulates thus after just 50 judgments a constant bias of just 1% would have probably effected the result. But which one if any of those 50 judgments do you change to correct the bias?

You can not actually work it out, the best you can do is take many readings and average them out and then apply a fractional correction factor. But that does not solve the problem in fact in some cases it makes the problem worse (law of small numbers applied to residues). But worse yet the number of judgments you have to average to gain an improvment in accuracy goes up alarmingly when you are looking for entropy at 2^32bits, and reaching impossible for 2^4096 bits for an 8K RSA Public Key.

But also all the time though you will still have bias you cannot correct on an RBG no matter how many judgments you make. Because the reality is you have just as many issues measuring the bias it’s self. Which makes the user of the RBG “time constrained”. Made worse by the fact few if any RBG’s people will use will have continuous test / evaluate / update loops running. In fact in the case of IC based RBG’s that is deliberately prevented for reasons the chip manufacturers like Intel refuse to explain.

But an attacker has an advantage over the RBG user on this score as they are not as time constrained. If the user takes more than one output from the RBG then an an attacker can average those outputs. Thus the attacker has the advantage of being able to average out an error function over a much longer period in time.

Whilst there are ways for an RBG designer to push the attack further out in time –look up “dithering” for one example– if this is done by either a deterministic or chaotic signal then an attacker can still average it out. Thus determin what it is, synchronize to it and strip it off. Most importantly the attacker can then wind it back in time, which if they have a ‘Collect it all’ policy in place means your past messages etc become vulnerable. Thus the signal you use to dither or other obscuring method also has to be ‘truely’ random.

Thus you get into an almost circular argument, and the only solution is to go with a “turtles all the way down” mwthod of using multiple independent true RBG’s and keeping your fingers crossed about certain types of measurment bias. Which brings us back to the issue of ‘independence’. That is how do you ensure your sources and the judgment systems attached to them are not in some way synchronized under any and all conditions?

That’s why it’s easy to design a “noddy TRNG” with electronics from scrap devices, harder to produce one for maths simulation etc, but very hard to design a TRNG of sufficient quality for todays high end crypto and communications needs, especially where high volume traffic thus high usage of good RBG distribution is to be expected.

Anders December 1, 2020 3:24 PM



MarkH December 1, 2020 6:52 PM

@Clive, xcv, SpaceLifeForm et al:

As I already wrote a couple of times, I’m trying to reason these questions through methodically step-by-step.

Clive’s response a couple of comments above covers quite a lot of ground, using a very broad brush (sorry for the combination of metaphors). If anyone wants to point out specific errors in any assertion I made above (in the comments titled “radioactive decay TRNG” all-caps), that would be super helpful!

Rather than the broad brush, I’ve been trying to use the point of needle: to be as precise and specific as possible, in the hope of avoiding errors in fact and logic.

So Clive, if you will kindly quote one or more statements from one of my preceding comments, and point out the errors, I should be most appreciative!


While I await a specific correction, I want to focus in on the meaning of “deterministic.”

As I mentioned before, my understanding is that in general physical processes are some hybrid of deterministic and non-deterministic, whereas spontaneous nuclear decay (and in particular, the alpha decay from Americium 241) is purely non-deterministic.

Here are examples of phenomena which are largely deterministic:

• the roll of a die
• the motion of the “goo” in a lava lamp
• a coin toss onto a table
• Brownian motion

If my understanding of the quantum nature of the universe is correct, then fully deterministic processes are somewhere between rare and non-existent.

Probably it’s not difficult to work out why the first three are deterministic, and why their outcomes (including the state of the lava lamp within some limited time range) could be predicted far better than by chance.

Brownian motion is more subtle, but I start with the trivial prediction that in one second, the speck will be very near where it is now! Much more significantly, there’s no practical way to predict which direction it will move in the next second.

But in principle, this could be done. The speck’s motion is essentially the result of “billiard ball” collisions with molecules of the fluid in which it is immersed. Measuring the position and momentum of every molecule within a few millimeters of the speck would make it possible to predict — better than by chance — which direction it would move in the next second, a la Laplace.

Of course, we’ve never found “Laplace’s demon,” and the Brownian forecast can’t be done with any known technology. Nonetheless, the universe contains information by which the motion could, in principle, be predicted.

Nuclear decay is really really different from that. Per wikipedia, “According to quantum theory, it is impossible to predict when a particular atom will decay.” Even if you had “God’s microscope”, and could precisely measure every particle inside an Am-241 nucleus, there is no observation you could make as a snapshot, as a time series, or even 10^-21 seconds before the event!!! — that would enable any prediction of the time of its decay better than by chance.

The universe contains no information by which the moment of decay could be predicted.

Nuclear decay is such an exotic phenomenon, that it’s difficult to relate to the sorts of things we are accustomed to reason about.

SpaceLifeForm wrote, “the Universe must temporarily lend some energy to an atom that is unstable in order for it to decay,” and Clive wrote of “isotope decay” in which “energy is added to the particle in some way from the environment it is in.”

If quantum mechanics is correct, and I correctly understand its conclusions concerning spontaneous alpha decay, then (a) no external energy is required for decay to occur, and (b) there is no external event of any kind which triggers the decay.

In some exotic cases, environmental factors can modify the half-life of decay, but even these don’t determine the moment of decay: they shift the probability per unit time. [In any case, such conditions won’t occur in any home-made TRNG.]

The decay of each Am-241 nucleus is the conclusion of a conversation it has with itself, not with the rest of the universe.

A little poetically, you could imagine that inside each unstable nucleus someone is rolling an astronomical collection of dice at an incomprehensibly high rate; the first time they come up all ones — whether that’s a picosecond from now, or one thousand years hence — the alpha particle tunnels out.

Clive Robinson December 1, 2020 7:08 PM

@ Anders, ALL,

Wit regards Circle-NSO there’s not very much to say other than their Op-Sec suffers from the “Big civil organisation issue” that is as a civilian organisation what leverage they have on employees via punitive action is limited to “civil-action” and the larger the organisation the less effective it becomes.

Whilst that can be scary nasty in some countries (authoritarian), bad in others (the US being one) in other nations (several European) employees have better legal protections thus stronger rights with respect to employers. The result is employees tend to put “getting the job done” over “Organisational Op-Sec”. Because “job success” is short term and gets promotions and bonuses, whilst Org Op-Sec is a long term issue and who did what on who’s orders is quickly lost in time.

But the big issue is “Signaling System Seven”(SS7) it’s an international standard of long standing, both of which give it enormous inertia and like the worlds largest ships it’s difficult to stop and hard to turn and few want to try doing either.

The drafters of SS7 were more than aware of the inertia effect so they limited it’s scope to “core functionality” to ensure the biggest likelyhood of minimal problem interoperatability over extended ranges of equipment with quater century or more nominal working lives.

Which means that they left many things out which today we think otherwise about.

I’m not going to go into great technical detail for a couple of reasons. First of it’s dull amd a 20,000ft view suffices, but secondly I don’t want this comment to be complained about and moderated out of sight.

So considet SS7 as one of several layers in a communications stack. That is it has layers both below and above it. Below would be transportation including traffic routing and the likes of encryption and error correction. Above it would be the likes of authentication and functional routing and the required functionality to do “service billing” on. The thing about “service billing” is information delivery and accuracy are given way higher importance than nearly all else as “It’s revenue collection”.

Thus SS7 is effectively an unauthenticated plain text protocol. Which originally did not mater in the slightest. Because the signal was “circuit switched” or carried on dedicated bearer lines that is it was effectively “physically authenticated” and as circuit switched and dedicated bearer lines were effectively private the need for anything more than plaintext was not required. It was also effectively undesirable as it would significantly increase complexity that would require more better qualified people thus considerably adding sunk costs.

What has changed to make SS7 insecure is that rather than sitting on point to point circuit switched or dedicated bearer lines it’s now on packet switched multi access networks of such size that they might as well be considered public. Which was something the SS7 designers did not consider to much as it was not realy envisioned…

Now however a lot of SS7 travels across the likes of TCP/IP on networks that have gateways out to the rest of the world…

Thus SS7 still gives data “integrity” it now needs aditional stack layers below to give “confidentiality” and layers above to “authenticate” each transaction. These have not happened for various reasons. But the over riding one is to minimise cost of billing to maximise profit by keeping the non profitable cost of security as low as possible.

The actual take away lesson is to realise that changing the basics such as chosen carrier physical layer methods need to be considered from a security perspective.

Which with SS7 over the past couple of decades has not been considered, especially when selling access to SS7 is so profitable…

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons December 1, 2020 10:39 PM

@ Clive
I believe EFF got its start out of the legal entanglement that resulted from the absconded SS7 manual from an AT&T network access provider hub. It is the first time the FBI became seriously involved in the investigation and unwittingly stood with AT&T’s assertion as to the value involved in the acquisition. I believe it was a downloaded electronic copy, thus any physical valuation is questionable. Those accused, LoD hackers, were unduly held to account under harsh penalties in order to convey the message that hacking, the didn’t use the term cracking, was to be treated differently.

ifb December 1, 2020 10:55 PM

@Clive Robinson

the “Big civil organisation issue” that is as a civilian organisation what leverage they have on employees via punitive action is limited to “civil-action” and the larger the organisation the less effective it becomes.

Presumably employees of any “big civil organization” receive positive rewards for their contributions in the form of wages, salaries, bonuses, benefits.

There’s a pernicious problem of indebtedness, however, in that employees become “locked in” to the job or position, with a family and a 30-year home mortgage — and all available positive rewards from work are spent paying bills: the positive becomes neutral, and the neutral becomes negative, because of an upward-ratcheting cost of living that consumes all available income for the employee’s family.

Clive Robinson December 2, 2020 1:18 AM

@ ifb,

There’s a pernicious problem of indebtedness…

Yes, and it’s one that some employers try to exploit occasionally viciously.

I might be unusual, but I was aware of the issue long before I had my first full time job. So as soon as I started working I built up savings that amounted to “six months drop dead and walk away money” or if you prefer “six months seed money” to start my own business. Even when I purchased my first property I maintained the “walk away money” to include the payments. Also I do not borrow money I save, the mortgage was the only loan I’ve ever had as an individual, and it was an investment.

One foolish managing director tried to exploit the “indebtedness” he assumed incorrectly I had (I was young and owned a house he assumed there would be leverage there I guess). I disabused him of that assumption rather rapidly and would have seen him in court. However the Chairman of the Company and I believe the majority shareholder at the time decided a messy trial was not what the company needed. I got a couple of months extra pay as a “bonus payment” (tax reasons). By the time he made that decision I had already found another job that was better paying and much less stressful, so it got added to the fund.

From thinking about what had happened I realised from that incident that a thoughtfull employee could reverse the employer employee relationship if needed you just needed your own leverage (the old “walk softly and carry a big stick” thinking).

Some time later I was working at a large very plesant organisation that unfortunately got taken over, and the new owners were rapidly developing bad employer employee relations. So I decided it was time to find another job which I fairly easily did. However the potential new employer wanted me to start as soon as possible which normally would not have been a problem. However they could not wait the three month notice period that had just been put in place by my soon to be old employer who was using the courts to try and enforce the period on people who were already jumping ship…

So I engineered a dispute and a leagl friend drew up a 14day notice of intention to start proceedings for “judicial review”. The employers legal team must have told them of what their chances were so I got “instant dismissal”. But they found that was not good idea either because they got another 14day letter for “breach of contract”. Their lawyers again must have advised them of their chances, and I got the three months wages plus an “undisclosed sum” and importantly a letter saying I’d been made redundant along with a signed legal agreement that redundancy was what was to be put in my work record and given to any future enquiry made and the real prize was keeping my Intellectual Property. It was not long thereafter that the organisation “imploded” so I was possibly the only one to walk away better off.

Before you get the wrong idea I was usually an ideal employee because I only worked where I was going to be happy to work that had interesting and often challenging work to do. It was the companies “going bad” for various reasons. Take the organisation that imploded where I got out with my IP, it was realy a very nice place to work before it got taken over and “New Managment” tried to make it hell as only “asset stripper Venture Crapatalists” have a habit of doing. As for the earlier job, well it was the managing director making promises not just to share holders but government agencies that supplied funding with claw back clauses that caused the issue. He had made promises neither he nor the other employees could deliver on. I delivered but the price was to high (moon shots usually are). So in return for getting his butt out of the hot seat, he had decided it had to be my fault he sat in it in the first place… Even though he was sitting sizzling when I started working there and it was only the fact he was in trouble that made him take my on. When people get that kind of mind fix the best place to be is somewhere else with a nice safety gap in between.

At the end of the day the leverage only arises from indebtedness, if the employee gets into that position. Whilst some people are so poorly paid they have to work hand to mouth that’s generaly not the case for the “aspirational classes” they spend till they are a month or more in debt on credit cards personal loans and the like when there is no real reason to. What they do not think about is that “month in debt” is costing them another “month in interest” every year. So in effect they are working 12months but only seeing the benifit of 10months. In the main they are kiding themselves they are being financially creative. The point is they are not investing in assets that usually appreciate in fiscal value like a house, but “life-style status”.

Way back in the early part of my career I got to know a consultant who had what are sometimes called “bankable skills” he was earning three times what I was for doing nearly the same job. We got chatting about what he did with the extra money. It actually wasen’t much. Yes he had a nicer house, but the bulk of the money went into a better cut of meat for sunday lunch, going out socialising in better places, better shoes, cloths and holidays and a nice car and a few other comforts in life like having “Harrods toilet paper/tissue”.

We kept in touch afterwards and both of us got to thinking about the conversation and as a result we both put money in a joint venture that was quickly paying dividends and building up. His wife did the admin and as the kids got older came to work full time and we soon had a couple of employees. Sadly he had a fatal road accident, I did not need the extra income but for his family it was all they had coming in, so I sold his children my shares for a pound rather than disolve the business. His wife made a go of it and the children are still running it today, and they now employ quite a few local people. They send me an Xmas card each year and I visit and give a “founders talk” to the apprentices they take on. So yes I’m more than happy that I did it and I hope the business goes on long after I’m gone. I guess from the satisfaction view point it’s one of the best investments I’ve made as it’s now given quite a few young people a future. I was starting to do similar with an old school friend, but sadly he died unexpectedly earlier this year.

SpaceLifeForm December 2, 2020 1:28 AM

@ MarkH, Clive

Measuring the position and momentum of every molecule within a few millimeters of the speck would make it possible to predict

Therein lies your mistake.

It is NOT possible to measure the position and momentum of a molecule simultaneously. This even applies to an electron, or even a quark.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is in play.

The role of ‘observation’ is in play.

And, of course the Schrödinger equation.

I recommend not to study the latter too much.

FA December 2, 2020 7:05 AM

@Clive, MarkH

But also all the time though you will still have bias you cannot correct on an RBG no matter how many judgments you make. Because the reality is you have just as many issues measuring the bias it’s self. (sic)

To reduce bias there is no need to measure it.

A simple example. Assume you have a random bit generator with P(0) = 0.6 and P(1) = 0.4, clearly biased.

Now if you take the parity of 8 such bits (using 8 new bits each time of course), the probabilities become P(0) = 0.50000128 and P(1) = 0.49999872.
With these probabilities, the entropy per bit is better than 0.99999999999 (eleven nines).

This procedure does not depend on knowing the bias of the original generator.

Now if the original generator is not just biased but also has some periodic defect (i.e. nonzero autocorrelation), that problem will remain – periodicity and bias are not the same thing.

But there is no periodicity in the time between nuclear decay events.

Define a signal S(t) as a dirac pulse at each such event. The power spectrum of S(t) is perfectly white, without any discrete frequencies. Sampling another signal (e.g. a sawtooth) at the event times is equivalent to multiplying that signal by S(t), so there will not be any discrete frequency in the result.

Clive Robinson December 2, 2020 8:14 AM

@ MarkH, SpaceLifeForm,

As I already wrote a couple of times, I’m trying to reason these questions through methodically step-by-step.

And you’ve started in the wrong place.

As @SpaceLifeForm and myself have told you looking at individual decays is not telling you anything about True Random Bit Generators (TRBGs) that use isotope decay or any other singular event.

Singular events give you a point in time which effectively you gain nothing by measuring no mater how accurately you try.

It’s not how TRBGs work, they measure “relative time” by using multiple events. There are two basic methods,

1, Count the events in a given time period.

2, Count the time between two or more events.

Thus talking about if a singular event can be determined either now or in the future and if it takes energy from the environment or not is not gaining you any insight as to the bias problems and where they come from. But remember that there is an issue you first have to understand which is the Quantum Zeno Effect or Turing Paradox, I’ll let you look it up but to whet your appetite simplisticly it says that a quantum state change can not happen at the point of measurment, thus if you rapidly measure a quantum effect you can in theory stop it’s transition… Whilst Turing was perhaps the first to talk about this big hole in quantum theory, it was not realy taken seriously untill this century when experimentation had reached the point it could start to be investigated in more interesting ways…

But to humour you a little about isotope decay,

1, One of the basic dictates of science is “For work to be done energy has to be expended”

2, Also neither energy/mass can be created from nothing after the big bang event had settled.

3, Energy/matter move from the organised to the disorganized state (entropy)

So far, as far as I’m aware, all practical tests including trigering an isotope to decay have confirmed the above.

Thus the idea of spontanious decay without energy input is going out on a limb rather more than a bit and taking a chain saw with you. Theory as they say is not the same as practice, in fact theory especially quantum theory is part of the “shut up and calculate” school. The results of which need to be tested for the mathmatical models to move from being elegant formulations to proven predictive tools. Repeatable real world experiments are in effect not just the “gold standard” but “the only standard”.

The argument for alpha decay to cross a potential barrier is quantum tunneling of the particles. Put simply quantum mechanics indicates, these small particles can, with a very small probability, tunnel from one side of a potential barrier to the other. The way these particles cross the potential barrier is interesting. The argument is the particle, in effect, borrows energy from its surroundings to cross the potential barrier. It then immediately gives the energy back by making the electrons reflected by the potential barrier more energetic than they would otherwise have been. Thus the three dictates mentioned above hold.

Is this actually what happens who knows, but “the accounting balances” the way described. Hence the point both @SpaceLifeForm and myself were making.

But that still leaves the question unanswered as to what triggered the tunneling event. Part of the argument is that alpha particles are at best only very loosely contained within the isotope nucleus and bounce around back and forth against the potential barrier around 10^21 times a second and even with the heaviest of istopes where the containment is very weak it could still take several billion years of this bouncing around to happen before an alpha particle tunnels it’s way out.

But it still does not explain what caused it to cross the tipping point to be able to tunnel. Is it an effect of the alpha particle or the barrier or possibly something we do not yet know about (Quantum mechanics is known to be incomplete still).

Any way enough for now.

vas pup December 2, 2020 4:05 PM

Web Summit: Oculus co-founder talks China and military AI

“Virtual reality firm Oculus VR’s co-founder has accused other tech chiefs of refusing to work with the US military for fear of alienating China.

In a virtual chat at Web Summit, Palmer Luckey said US technology companies had “always worked” with the military in the past, claiming a recent change of heart had been caused by their deepening relationships with China.

During a talk at Web Summit, which is online this year, he challenged the notion that tech firms were refusing military contracts because of staff’s ethical objections.

“A lot of companies have financial and PR incentives to stay out of military work, so they’re happy to use these employees as a scapegoat to say ‘we’re listening to our employees’, which contributes to this idea that workers of Silicon Valley and other tech hubs are universally opposed to this idea,” he said.

“It is in the interest of a lot of these tech companies to kind of pretend to be these extra-national international corporations that are bound to no nation.

“You can disagree on how dominant of a factor it is, It’s a factor, though, and it’s the one that doesn’t get discussed.”

China has done an incredible job of using the blocking of access to their markets as a tool to get the culture of western democracies to subvert itself to China,” he said.

“They don’t have to come after us militarily. They don’t have to cut our networks. All they have to do is invest in our companies, do partnerships with our companies… and then everybody bends over for them.”

When asked about the use of AI in the military, Mr Luckey said:
===>”It’s not a good idea to outsource life and death decisions to a machine. You can’t court-martial a machine. You can’t imprison a computer for war crimes.”

Instead, he said,
===>the aim should be to use AI to “sort through large amounts of information, but not make those lethal decisions without a person very explicitly looking at the data and making the call.

“I think that that’s a pretty good line to draw, and something we’ll have to enforce against our political adversaries.”

vas pup December 2, 2020 4:20 PM

Microsoft files patent to record and score meetings on body language

“Technology giant Microsoft has filed a patent for a system to monitor employees’ body language and facial expressions during work meetings and give the events a “quality score”.

A filing suggests it could be deployed in real-world meetings or online virtual get-togethers.

==>It envisions rooms being packed with sensors to monitor the participants, which could raise privacy concerns.

Microsoft is already under fire over a separate “productivity-score” tool.

Companies do not always make use of patents they register.

But they often reveal ideas in development before they appear in commercial products.

Details of the “meeting-insight computing system” were filed in July, ahead of being made public this month.

They say the sensors could record:

which invitees actually attend a meeting
=>attendees' body language and facial expressions
the amount of time each participant spent contributing to the meeting
=>speech patterns "consistent with boredom [and] fatigue"

They also suggest employees’ mobile devices could be used to monitor whether they were simultaneously engaged in other tasks – such as texting or browsing the internet – as well as to check their schedule to take into account whether they had had to attend other meetings the same day.

All that information would then be combined with other factors, such as “how efficient the meeting was, an emotional sentiment expressed by meeting participants, [and] how comfortable the meeting environment was”, into an “overall quality score”, Microsoft says.”

My nickel: all such surveillance technology NOT directly served for security purpose is just manifestation of childhood voyeurism in adulthood of developers and users of such technology.

vas pup December 2, 2020 4:48 PM

Europe’s role in China’s Chang’e 5 moon rock mission

“Estrack, a network of ground stations run by ESA, is tracking China’s lunar “sample return” spacecraft. It aims to bring moon rock back to Earth by mid-December. It could be a step towards more regular moon flights.

Helping it along the way is the European Space Agency’s tracking network, Estrack — a global network of ground stations that is run by the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

Europe is keen to work with China on robotic missions and human spaceflight.

“We’re now in the most critical phase of the mission,” says Pier Bargellini, who heads ESA’s Ground Facilities Operations Division.

Once the samples have been collected, a return vehicle will launch from the lunar surface and then perform an automatic docking with an orbiting vehicle before it all returns to Earth.

“And we’re supporting this phase with a large antenna we have in Malargüe, Argentina,” says Bargellini.
=====>!!!”The Chinese have their own antenna in Argentina, so we’re providing back up, so we don’t lose any data if there are problems.”

That’s important to ensure all those critical steps are performed as planned. After that, a Spanish antenna at Maspalomas in the Canary Islands will track the sample return vehicle as it reenters Earth to land north of China’s Inner Mongolia.

“You want to track the return vehicle as much as you can to know its trajectory exactly and ensure it reenters at the right place,” says Bargellini.

ESA has supported a number of China’s Chang’e missions. But Chang’e 5 is, by CNSA own admission, China’s “most complex space mission ever.”

Cassandra December 2, 2020 5:43 PM

@Clive Robinson

Thank you very much for taking the time to read the paper I suggested. I appreciate the effort greatly.

Unfortunately, I have had to deal with a domestic embuggerance, and have a backlog of other work to deal with, so I’ve not been as quick as politeness would prescribe to acknowledge your freely given work. Please accept my apologies.

I have every sympathy with old injuries. I managed to aggravate one of mine by shutting a car door on my leg, which led to some blood and an infection that reminded me of how long it took to heal the first time. My gait is much like the late John Thaw’s, but for a different reason. I hope your foot improves.

The paper links to a paper on the ‘Intel Random Number Generator’ from April 1999. I don’t know if the same design continues to be used, but the paper was an interesting read for me. It is interesting to identify the important things not being said, otherwise one could get the impression that everything is hunky-dory.


Our host is quoted:

Bruce Schneier writes, “Good random-number generators are hard to design, because their security often depends on the particulars of the hardware and software. Many products we examine use bad ones.” (Schneier, B., “Security Pitfalls in Cryptography,”Counterpane Systems, 1998.)

I think one of the problems with the discussion around radioactive decay is the misconception that it you look closely enough at something, you can find the root cause. Einstein famously said that ‘God does not play dice [with the universe]’, and supported the idea of ‘hidden variable’ theory ( hxxps:// ). Current consensus amongst physicists is that there are no hidden variables: the Universe behaves in line with the probabilistic quantum-mechanical model. There is, of course, a minority who disagree and gamely come up with interesting other theories, but none are currently accepted in the mainstream. The end result is that you can make accurate predictions about the behaviour of particles in aggregate, and say that, on average, a certain number will decay in a certain time period: but you cannot point at an individual atom and predict when it will decay*. Some people find this frustrating and ‘unthinkable’ because they are stuck with trying to apply an inappropriate classical model where it is not valid.

We end up at quantum metaphysics, at which point it might be worth reading ‘Quantum Ontology: A Guide to the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics’ by Peter J Lewis (It is reviewed here: hxxps:// ). People are still arguing passionately about what Quantum Mechanics means, and what the correct interpretation is. It may well be that JBS Haldane was right: “…my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” Quantum theory allows the elegant and surprising Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester ( )

*Note, it might be possible to induce an atom to decay at a chosen time. Nuclei that decay with the emission of gamma radiation can be induced to decay by directing gamma-rays of suitable wavelength at them: which is stimulated decay. It might also be possible to influence some forms of beta-decays with external magnetic fields. In both cases, this would be stimulated decay, not spontaneous decay.

MarkH December 2, 2020 9:01 PM


you’ve started in the wrong place

There’s an old American joke with the punchline, “if I was a-goin’ there, I wouldn’t start from here.” I’ll respond in two ways.

First, if I already have a conclusion in mind, certain premises may seem unworthy of investigation. If the conclusion is open to question (and my purpose is to investigate it), then such “pruning” of start points can form a mental trap from which there’s no escape. First principles offer liberation from this kind of mental cul de sac.

Second, if I study how minute droplets form at around dust particles in saturated air at high altitudes, gradually coalesce to form larger and larger droplets, descend as they grow more massive, start to cool by surface evaporation, assume a “tear drop” shape as they approach their terminal velocities, and gather electric charge from air friction along the way … that will leave a very great deal I won’t understand about thunderstorms. However, it will give a magnificent starting point from which to develop an understanding of thunderstorms.


You wrote that the two basic methods for TRBGs are:

Count the events in a given time period.

Count the time between two or more events.

Probably you have a lot more experience with such gadgets than anybody who participates here; I trust that this is what you have seen.

To my mind, (a) those are not the only available methods, and (b) if a TRNG applies either of these methods to the detection of radioactive decay events, then the designer didn’t adequately understand the problem s/he was trying to solve.

It does illuminate why you’ve written several times about bias, because both methods yield highly biased data which must then be post-processed in an attempt to increase the entropy per output bit.


With respect to how decay works, I won’t belabor the argument about the underlying physical theory, but instead offer three observations:

First, physics tells us that nucleons (and indeed the cloud of electrons, if any) are incessantly moving. If they could stop, the atom would cease to be. Atoms are inherently dynamic, without need for an external supply of energy.

Second, the energy of fission products (such as the alpha particle from a dying Am 241 nucleus) needs no tricky explanation: objects of like charge repel one another! Once the new helium nucleus is free, it flies.

Third, the essential concept (for the purposes of random generation) is that each decay is an absolutely independent event. It is not triggered by any influence from outside the nucleus.

[Note: nuclei under bombardment by high-energy particles indeed behave differently, but that has nothing to do with the stream of alpha particles maintaining steady standby currents in countless millions of smoke detectors.]


As ugly / baffling / counterintuitive as quantum theory seems to many (like me, for instance), it is very frequently tested in the laboratory. Its basic predictions are confirmed over and over and over.

It continues to amaze me that mesons as the “carrier particles” for the nuclear binding force, and quantum tunneling as an explanation for alpha decay, were both theorized in the mid 1930s … while humanity was in the grip of a global economic depression and my parents were still in primary school, and countless inventions which today seem indispensable hadn’t yet been dreamed of …

It took a few years to confirm those ideas in the laboratory. They’ve held up solid for three generations.

If you think that alpha decays are not independent — that somehow they can be triggered by external influences in ordinary environments — then let’s design an experiment to confirm it. Repeatable lab results to this effect would require a radical rethinking of the foundations of quantum mechanics, and give us an excellent shot at the Nobel prize, with awards currently running at more than USD 1 million. A share of that would be a great help to my personal finances.

SpaceLifeForm December 2, 2020 9:07 PM

@ Clive, name

I believe the original impetus for the development of SS7 was the phone phreakers.


Draper learned that a toy whistle packaged in boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal emitted a tone at precisely 2600 hertz—the same frequency that AT&T long lines used to indicate that a trunk line was available for routing a new call.[10] The tone disconnected one end of the trunk while the still-connected side entered an operator mode. The vulnerability they had exploited was limited to call-routing switches that relied on in-band signaling. After 1980 and the introduction of Signalling System No. 7 most U.S. phone lines relied almost exclusively on out-of-band signaling.

SpaceLifeForm December 2, 2020 9:16 PM

@ k15

Address it to @Moderator and provide the comment-id, and what is bad.
You can find the comment-id by mousing over the timestamp of the post.

It’s rare they last long, so unless one remains after a couple of days, I would not bother to point it out. The obvious ones will get zapped, but not necessarily immediately. Some people actually do try to get some sleep.

xcv December 2, 2020 9:16 PM


stimulated decay, [vs.] spontaneous decay.

I would not tend to classify all nuclear reactions as “decay” except in cases where the substance is at rest and in thermodynamic equilibrium with its environment, and atomic nuclei spontanously split apart.

People really cannot expect the electrons of atoms to take part in chemical reactions, conduction of electric current, and so forth, without inducing other reactions of the protons and neutrons of the same atom.

Some atoms might have stable nuclei as neutral atoms, but the same nuclei might become unstable in certain ionized states, and react in ways that emit ionizing radiation.

To call a nuclear reaction a “decay” is not technically wrong of course, because it is an acknowledgment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics that the sum total entropy (or disorder) of the universe cannot be decreased, but only increased by the reaction, however it takes place.

Clive Robinson December 3, 2020 4:40 AM

@ Cassandra,

Unfortunately, I have had to deal with a domestic embuggerance…

I’m sorry to hear that, hopefully it is both minor and resolvable. As for apologizing, that’s kind of you but not necessary we all get bumps in the road of life every so often. With luck we mostly avoid them but these days I appear to more than stub my toe on them, guess I need better glasses or something (not that I can find them[1]).

With regards the overly dramatically named[2] “Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester”, it actually has some interesting properties over and above it’s elegance. Think of it as a “observation sensor” that is it detects the collapse of the superposition at the point of measurment, which has implications for examining the Turing Paradox as well as real world sensors.

Speaking of point of measurment sensors on a more down to earth note you mention the infamous Intel paper… What it describes has been described by others as the “Roulette Wheel” or “Waggon Wheel” TRNG as it is in reality a “stroboscopic sensor” and just like the film gate in old movies where the waggon wheels appear slow, stationary or turning backwards on the screen. Thus it likewise has problems, not that Intel invented this type of TRNG though the paper does kind of make you feel like they were implying it. It has been independintly invented by quite a few engineers over the years myself included. As far as I know back a decade and a half or more before the Intel paper in the very early 1980’s[3], I was the first to use a VCO as an analogue to digital converter in a TRNG but these ideas have a habit of “comming of age” thus occur to many people around the same time, and the use of a VCO as a A2D converter was not exactly new then it goes back into the relms of early telephone research.

You note Intel lable the parts in an over encompasing way, almost as though they were writing a first draft patent application. But as a resultvas you note with,

It is interesting to identify the important things not being said, otherwise one could get the impression that everything is hunky-dory.

Or as my father used to dryly observe,

“There is always dust under carpets, though some more than others”.

Such expansiveness by Intel makes for a very large carpet… An observation if I had voiced it back then would have caused “shock and awe” as Intel were to use somebody elses observation “everybodies darling” at the time. Now after more recent events in their public history I suspect that many would just give a wry smile.

But to answer your question of,

I don’t know if the same design continues to be used

The answer is both yes and no, the advantage of the VCO back four decades ago was it had “a lot of advantages”, but it’s big disadvantage was it was “an analog part” thus not realy suitable for integration in digital chips. Also thermal noise sources generate tiny signals and this can cause all sorts of powersupply and other noise issues and be susceptible to subtle feedback effects. So the idea of using “Ring Oscillators” to replace the thermal noise source and VCO came up. Back fourty years ago trying to use 7-10 74LS chips to make a suitable ring oscillator was way to much PCB real estate, slow and caused powersupply issues. You would not use the 4000 series CMOS chips because they were “oh so slow”. Now such ring oscillators are just a tiny tiny fraction of chip real estate so they get used in prefrence, especially as with the devices that make the inverters have upper cut off frequencies above 10GHz means they can “toot” at frequencies that with a few combined will churn out bits in the tens of billions a second… So “quantity not quality” is the game, hence the need for the “magic pixi dust” entropy pools and crypto to hide it all behind. As in the Wizard of Oz you are not supppsed to look behind the curtain… Oh and don’t mention the “pendulum problem” of using multiple ring oscillators having them sing harmoniously is not giving the discord they designers were hoping for.

But if you are not looking for buckets full of questionable bits of quite low “true entropy” but moderate quantities of quite high “true entropy” then a well designed and built “Roulette Wheel” TRBG will be a better bet.

Which brings us onto “what people are looking for”. As you note,

I think one of the problems with the discussion around radioactive decay is the misconception that it you look closely enough at something, you can find the root cause.

Conventional mechanics can only have “work to cross the tipping point” or as some call it the “entropy hump” or as bombs have been mentioned “going high order”. There are reasons for this. Firstly the tenents and axioms of classical physics demands it, secondly is “the need to be master of all you survey” which is in essence what most scientists are all about, though they call it the search for knowledge / understanding. It was after all the reason for the near schism a century ago when quantum mechanics poped it’s head up, and Einstein’s presumption on Gods life style.

You could say “the outcome was ordained” because actually humans can not accept a determanistic universe where everything is “preordained” because that would say at the macro level “there can be no accidents” and more importantly “there can be no criminals” because whilst crime will happen, those committing it were preordained and had no “free will” thus no choice therefore justice and punishment would be of no use to prevent crime.

So we need the concept of choice, free will, and therefore the universe can not be determanistic, thus we can not be masters of all we survey. Thus quantum mechanics or something similar has to exist to give us not just choice but a way to deal with what we can not know except through the veil of statistics and probability.

Speaking of accidents, I’m sorry to hear about your leg such things happen or are “sent to try us” depending on your view point, the sad fact is as my doctor used to point out before she retired is, what appears to bounce off of us when we are young tends to bite more with time.

I know it in my head that as entropy dictates, I am destined to get a little less robust with time, knowing this however does not realy help me, and I suspect many others, be accepting of it. In my head I’m still twenty something even though my mirror lies to me 😉

Thus “do as I say, but not as I do” and take care.

[1] I wear glasses because I have to which is a problem because I have very wide angle vision and can see around the edges which causes head aches and nausea or just “seasickness” in proportion to how much distortion I see. So I can not wear vari-focals and the glasses have to be large and as near rimless as possible. So not just hard to get at a reasonable price but when you think about it “hard to see” when put down even with good eyesight. As my eyesight has got worse over the years the need to take them off to do something and then put them on again to do something else has gone up as I need to switch from close to more distant vision the point at which I have to switch is about two hand widths from my nose which makes working at a desk darn akward as books and things I’m working on are in close, but all computer screens are distant… Anyway I usually remember where I put my glasses down but occasionaly something will cause a sudden change and I will forget where… So, imagine if you will a large aimiable bear with a perplexed look on a face that has been likened to a Klingon, that is thus as hirsute as Carl Marx wandering around myopicaly trying to find it’s glasses. It is almost the definition of the blind leading the hapless, and even occasionally entertaining for onlookers. But I also get the akward helpers… The ones who ask me what I am looking for, and I tell them, then they say something like “They are on the table right in front of you, cann’t you see them”… The implicit question actually being more a sardonic statment… To which the obvious reply of “No that’s why I’m looking for them” is akin to pouring oil on a smoldering fire… First it dampens the flame, then it fuels it vigorously, thus is unwise as a course of action. Just one of life’s little lessons for the unwary 😉

[2] I blaim two things for this over dramatic behaviour, firstly was that man and his “damn cat” which has done more for common literature than physics 😉 And secondly the fact that even at the best of times quantum mechanics is pages of dry maths and knarly symbols, that are less pleasing to the minds eye than snakes crawling around the bottom of a bottom less pit you just know you are going to fall into if you carry on studying it 😉

[3] It came about as a project I did in electronic music and I’d submitted the TRNG design off to a well known electronics magazine of the time for consideration for an article. They expressed thanks and some polite interest for a future article but it never made it to print. I think I still have the corespondence in an old filing cabinate in the garage (if mice have not enhanced the entropy effect by nesting in it).

Clive Robinson December 3, 2020 6:30 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

I believe the original impetus for the development of SS7 was the phone phreakers.

So the legend says…

Unfortunately the truth is a little more prosaic.

You need to remember what was going on, on the other side of the puddle in certain European Nations.

Up at Dolice Hill in North London and over at what is now called Adastral Park but started as RAF Martlesham Heath in Suffolk where the then “Post Office Research Laboratory” was based.

The ideas of Tommy Flowers and his colleagues that had givenvthe world it’s first electronic computer were post WWII were now being put to the problem of “Digital Telephony” and what was called “System X” was being developed that gave rise to ISDN and all that followed.

The US encumbrants had no reason to think about a digital future, the profits AT&T and similar were making was enormous even by monopolistic standards.

However even they had a problem that they could not realy solve. Mechanical switch gear was large cumbersome and resource expensive especially in man power. It basically had to go. A secondary but just as bad problem was with analogue systems noise and distortion went up as the length of cable went up and this likewise could not be solved economically.

So whilst AT&T in the US, like the General Post Office (GPO) in Britain, and the German phone companies had done research pre WWII the unreliable expensive low frequency valve/tube electronics could not compeate as digital systems.

WWII significantly changed the landscape when it came to valve/tube design and production. Post WWII there was a glut of manufacturing and the price was a very small fraction of prewar prices.

The trick Tommy Flowers had proved to increase reliability such that digital computing was economically possible, was one of those “secrets” that crossed the Atlantic with Linderman and his advisory team. It probably had a greater effect on the world back then and in the next couple of decades than the Boot and Randal cavity resonator magnetron, though most do not realise it.

Thus Digital Telephony was possible and actually desirable. The proplem “Sunk cost investment returns”. AT&T had the technology but managment had no financial reason to change.

In bombed out Europe however the legacy infrastructure was effectively gone and replacing it was imperative, thus the now low cost of digital electronics was the prefered way to go.

The US had fallen behind and had to play catch up. Thus there had to be more reason than just low cost manufacturing and incrrased reliability to push managment into what they saw was needless risk.

What realy sold it was “new services” the work in Europe especially in Britain was showing all sorts of things were possible, but only with digital back bones etc.

So US managment had already made the decision to make the change to digital and had started in on it. Touch tone or DTMF dialing was what most remember along with last number redial etc. But there was a lot more behind it.

Capt. Crunch and friends came along at the end of the first transitions to digital on the reminents of the analogue system. The fact it made “Pop Cultute Fame” with 2400Hz whistles which the cynical mind behind the hackzine 2400 effectively stole and glamorized just gave the media free run. It’s the same reason prosecutors talk of “Hacking” not “Cracking” the MSM were like a dog with a new bone and they were not going to bone up on the subject to get things correct, heck they were nicotine stained booze addled journalists of more than middle age, they were not going to listen to the truth from a bunch of snotty teanagers…

As I occasionaly point out the oft incorectly told story of “HRH Prince Philip’s Electronic Mail Box” (on Prestel) getting “hacked” being conflated or confused with the BBC Micro Live ACN001 account (on BT_Gold) getting hacked. Tells me the who and who not of those doing proper research. Because I have the advantage of having been involved one way or another quite intimately with both events, and more by luck and bloody mindedness avoided being “entrapped” like Steve Gold (RIP) and Robert Schifreen were[1] and ending up making legal history and thus indirectly being responsible for some very bad legislation…

[1] I used to deliberately misspell Robert’s last name as “Schiffren” to see if it got picked up on by researchers, or non researchers, doing a “cut-n-paste” and guess what some of them “swallowed the hook”…

Clive Robinson December 3, 2020 10:32 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm, Winter,

The solar system follows the galactic standard—but it is a rare breed

Speaking of “Earth Like” planets and “Rare”, Do you remember the “WOW Signal” from the “Big Ears” radio telescope?

That 72 second potential SETI signal from four decades ago?

Well some Amateur Astronomer thinks he has worked out where it might have come from…

Withvan exciting name like 2MASS I can hardly raise any enthusiasm for it. That said some people are “treating it like gospel” others are just “sitting on the fence” whilst others are saying the analysis is at fault etc, etc, etc.

Personally I’ve no skin in the game, but I think it unlikely simply based on probability. But hey jazz it up a bit “rub some funk on it” and splash some “selenium shampoo” on it[1] and I could be persuaded to put some popcorn on for the fun of it 😉

[1] If you’ve not seen Evolution then watch it, it’s got a better than average shot at making you laugh. Just a little taster,

JonKnowsNothing December 3, 2020 10:55 AM


Interesting MSM report about a database category design problem. It seems that a police database in New Zealand has undergone an audit that showed a certain category of “crimes” are entered incorrectly.

43% of hate crime complaints have been downgraded

because most police personnel do not know how to enter them into their database.

Interesting UI design failure. Wonder what else gets miskeyed?

ht tps://
(url fractured to prevent autorun)

SpaceLifeForm December 3, 2020 11:34 AM

Video of the Arecibo collapse.

T4 is visible, it’s top breaks off backwords.
You can see the top of T12 fall into the camera view.


MarkH December 3, 2020 12:00 PM

Re Phone Phreaking:

The frequency was 2600 Hz, not 2400.

Semi-Disclosure: the statute of limitations has long elapsed on any unlawful telephone activities in which my youthful incarnation might or might not have been involved …

SpaceLifeForm December 3, 2020 12:02 PM

Arecibo videos from NSF.

The latest contains a second video from drone at the time.

I now see where the corrosion was: At top of tower.
You see not a cable breaking, but pulling away from the tower.


SpaceLifeForm December 3, 2020 2:24 PM

Arecibo slo-mo.

I was wondering why the equipment part of the rig fell instead of riding along with the triangle into the rock face.

It looks like it just twisted out of the circular track.

Maybe, if the arm had been aligned parallel to the T8-T12 side of the triangle, it may have ridden into the rock face with the triangle. Would not matter of course.


SpaceLifeForm December 3, 2020 2:49 PM


Will not be easy, but with modern materials, could be better.

Clive Robinson December 3, 2020 3:51 PM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

Will not be easy, but with modern materials, could be better.

It could, but at the end of the day “who gets to build it” it would be nice if it could be all or as much as possible “local labour”. But I’m guesing in todays world it would be contracted out to some company that will import the labour from else where.

There is even the possibility it could be Chinese Labour at engineer and above level, the way things work these days…

But I guess the real question will be “utility” it won’t be cheap and astronomy rarely puts money in the bank. Thus the required ROI will be arguable, and there’s a lot of hands held out for research grants that do have a better chance of putting money in the bank.

The simple fact is it does not matter what your political stripe, purse strings are going to be pulled tight on science especially the long term sciences that are not expected to pay short term dividends.

Thus I would expect that sort of level of funding to go into “energy” related projects that might have military spin off. Which might include high energy densiry storage that can be as rapidly charged as a fuel tank can be.

Anders December 3, 2020 4:50 PM


This IS important.


Anders December 3, 2020 5:26 PM



SpaceLifeForm December 3, 2020 10:48 PM

@ Clive

Some Arecibo inside pics from 12 years ago.


Clive Robinson December 4, 2020 4:50 AM

@ Bruce, ALL,

AKM semiconductor factory fire

There have been a number of semiconductor manufacturing fascility fires this year that have caused “supply chain” issues.

Perhaps the worst is the 82hour fire in Japan’s AKM factory,

The products they make are used in a lot of things not just professional sound equipment, but Software Defind Radio(SDR) systems, specialised temprature control devices for TXCO time keeping and GPS disciplined oscillators needed for all types of mobile phone networks as well as many data networks, and the broadcast industry is reliant in many areas on these chips.

Other chips end up in smart device peripherals and much much more, so it’s not just professional but consumer grade equipment as well.

For many of the devices there is no “second source” and the factory being in operation again in six months is probably optimistic.

Speculators have already purchased distribution end stock from the likes of Digi-Key, Mouser, Farnell etc and some of these speculators are asking upto 25 times the price they purchased at.

It means that products will have to be redesigned for other parts which is expensive and not a particularly fast option. Thus the speculators have specialist manufacturers over a barrel.

This is going to be an object lesson in supply chain issues and well worth keeping an eye on especially as it impacts on the ICTsec sector at quite a low infrastructure level where people normally do not think to look.

Clive Robinson December 4, 2020 5:05 AM

@ Winter,


I guess MAGA has never looked so honest[1]. Mind you speaking of Japan makes me think, work an N in there somehow and then it would mean “Whimsical Pictures”

[1] What has made me smile about it though is the “archaic” definition,

But the page does have some “not suitable for work” “go to the naughty step” words.

Winter December 4, 2020 5:25 AM

“But the page does have some “not suitable for work” “go to the naughty step” words.”

Ah, to be at work again. Going down memory lane again.

Clive Robinson December 4, 2020 2:30 PM

@ Casandra,

I know you are pressed for time currently, but there is a book up on arXiv that might be of interest to read / dip into when you are less pressed.

It goes through entropy, information theory and a few other bits of mathmatics to chase diversity in biological systems.

But whilst the biology is realy not mentioned except as an example of what to use the maths on it only requires according to the author only an undergraduate understanding,

“Entropy and Diversity”

I’ve only skimed through the TabOC and bits of a couple of chapters, but it looks interesting.

Cassandra December 4, 2020 2:56 PM


One of the many capabilities lost with Arecibo is interplanetary radar. The Chinese FAST telescope doesn’t do radar currently, and is unlikely to do so at a level to match the late Arecibo capability in the future as the FAST feed cabin suspended over the reflector dish is a much more lightweight structure.

Arecibo produced radar images of Venus (first in the 1970s), and various ‘fly-by’ asteroids, as well as Mercury, Titan and asteroids in the asteroid ‘belt’. At present, there is no facility that can duplicate that functionality. The next best facility for radar astronomy is Goldstone (hxxps://


There is a good run-down of FAST’s capabilities compared to Arecibo in the Wikipedia FAST article:



Clive Robinson December 4, 2020 3:03 PM

@ MarkH,

Now the thread is quietening down,

To my mind, (a) those are not the only available methods, and (b) if a TRNG applies either of these methods to the detection of radioactive decay events, then the designer didn’t adequately understand the problem s/he was trying to solve.

Yes there are other things you can measure on a signal,

1, Amplitude
2, Frequency
3, Phase

Both absolute and relative, but the output of a GM tube or other partical detector being intermitent or aproximately random spikes/clicks does not realy make those meaningful to measure.

Thus the designer has several trade offs to make in their search for interference free entropy. If you think you know a better way then “sing out” and everyone can hsve a look.

Moving on,

Third, the essential concept (for the purposes of random generation) is that each decay is an absolutely independent event. It is not triggered by any influence from outside the nucleus.

As far as I’m aware we actually do not currently know if either of those is true as nobody has come up with a definitive physical test to prove them.

Whilst I strongly suspect that you can not prove/disprove due to the problems of “proving a negative”. It is nether the less true that as science advances new things are found. But as general guidence we’ve usually found in the past that such things are “work” and “require energy” and thus can be “pushed over the entropy hump” by some triggering effect.

Thus I suspect the search for both a “tipping point” and “trigger” will go on. Remember just a century ago “Quantum” effects were considered “crack pot” but as mathmatical models they work quite well. But essentially that’s what Quantum Mechanics is, the application of probabilistic models hence the “shut up and calculate” view point.

But a problem for you to solve, if each decay is “indipendent” as you say, how come the average decay very closely follows a (1/e)^n curve?

There is a way to explain it simplistically but can you work it out for yourself, or find it online?

Just to give you a hint, I would not be asking if I did not think you already know all be it just intuitively in other areas.

Cassandra December 4, 2020 3:28 PM

@Clive Robinson

Thank you for the book recommendation. I shall have to add it to my ever-increasing to-be-read book list: a quick skim over the ToC and a dip in a few sections were interesting.


xcv December 4, 2020 5:07 PM

@Clive Robinson, Cassandra

With regards the overly dramatically named[2] “Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester”, it actually has some interesting properties over and above it’s elegance. Think of it as a “observation sensor” that is it detects the collapse of the superposition at the point of measurment, which has implications for examining the Turing Paradox as well as real world sensors.

This is how a common circuit breaker with respect to an electric motor allows an overcurrent of 15–20× the running current to start the motor without tripping the breaker.

The breaker or even a fuse can thus be shown to work without tripping it.

The quantum states where the breaker has tripped are suppressed by the “flyback voltage” that appears across the coils of the motor.

The breaker only collapses into a tripped state to stop the current when the “probablity amplitude” of the tripped state of the breaker are sufficient to overcome the electrostatic force holding the electrical contacts together.

MarkH December 4, 2020 5:47 PM


For now, I’m responding to the second part of your recent comment.

Humbly, the word “explain” has different meanings, and as a parent you know that the iteration of the question “why?” can proceed very far indeed.

In the quantum model of most kinds of decay, each unstable object has a probability of decay (per unit time) which is time-invariant.

The time-exponential decrease in a population of identical unstable isotopes is consistent with time-invariant decay probability. In essence, one implies the other.

Note that this is fully consistent with complete independence of decay events. When reaching its moment of death, a nucleus doesn’t need to “know” how many of its neighbors have yet to decay, or have already gone … nor does an Am 241 nucleus “know” whether it’s part of a purified metal densely packed with such nuclei, or whether its nearest Am 241 neighbor is thousands of meters away [1].

This might not be an explanation in the sense of your question, but observed decay behavior is consistent with decay as a perfectly random event having time-invariant probability.

I have a feeling that you had some other idea in mind with the question you posed about independence, but I haven’t grasped what that idea is.


I should say as a disclaimer, that I only know QM at the “comic book” level. I don’t pretend to understand all that spooky stuff … but I have a little notion of what some of the laws are, and of the experimental evidence which first led to their formulation.

Probably most of us know that our common-sense reasoning about the world of sensible objects is often strongly at odds with quantum descriptions of reality.

Consider the case of an incorrectly set mouse-trap, or a cocked firearm with a “hair trigger”. The spring energy sometimes releases without any apparent intervention (i.e., spontaneously).

These spring mechanisms might be triggered by a small mechanical vibration from its environment (a “predictable” trigger, because vibration can be measured), or perhaps even by thermal motion of their constituent molecules (an “unpredictable” trigger, because it’s not practical to observe those molecular motions … although in principle, it could be modeled as a deterministic process).

If it’s vibration, then we can say that the release was triggered by some discrete pulse of energy from outside the mechanism.

If the release is purely thermal, then we can say that although its timing is (for practical purposes) unpredictable, the ambient temperature affected the probability per unit time of spontaneous release.


The alpha decay case is even spookier than that: the vibration of molecules in metal parts requires energy from somewhere; without this, their thermal energy would gradually dissipate via radiation.

But nuclei can persist (science tells us) for billions of years, with extremely rapid incessant motion of their constituent particles, with no external energy source.

Nuclear vibration is lossless. Energy ceaselessly shifts about, but is not dissipated.


Finding an external trigger for what we understand as spontaneous alpha decay would — if I understand correctly — require a radical re-write of the “quantum book.” I wasn’t joking, about such a discovery likely being Nobel-worthy.

In some cases, isotopic half-life can be environmentally modified: the probability density can be adjusted. But that’s not the same as a triggering event.

Hypotheses that something is actually triggering nuclear decay can be tested by experiment, depending on the hypothesized trigger.

Quantum theory doesn’t require an external trigger for Am 241 fission; experiment has not revealed one.


[1] As the Steely Dan song goes, “Up on the hill, people never stare. They just don’t care.” Unstable nuclei don’t care what other nuclei are doing, when spontaneously decaying.

xcv December 4, 2020 7:41 PM

RE: “Brownian motion”

The motion of a particle in Brownian motion is proportional to the square root of time.

𝔼(Δx) / Δt = the drift velocity of the Brownian motion.
m Var(Δx) / (2Δt) = the average kinetic energy of the particles in Brownian motion.

SpaceLifeForm December 5, 2020 1:16 AM

@ MarkH

Here’s some thoughts to ponder:

Can you define ‘Time’ without requiring any ‘measurement’?

Can you define ‘Distance’ without requiring any ‘measurement’?

Can you define either without referencing the other?

Would your answers or questions provide a clue as to what may be happening in the cosmos with regard to ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’?

MarkH December 5, 2020 5:20 AM


I’m looking at the physics as a technologist: “how do I apply rules and patterns from the scientific consensus to a practical application?”

The questions you posed are (a) way over my head, and (b) seem to be more about philosophical foundations.

That being said, my answers are:



Not off the top o’ me old gray head.

I haven’t the foggiest, but I also have no reason to believe that entangled particles at any appreciable distance from each other play any role in spontaneous nuclear decay.

I regret that I’m not scintillating this morning (pun intended).

Clive Robinson December 5, 2020 5:24 AM

@ MarkH, SpaceLifeForm,

As I’ve mentioned the decay closely follows a (1/e)^n curve. Which as I’ve also noted a number of people have been trying to get into politicians heads with regards the growth in a pandemic, which is a pecentage per unit time change and has an inverse half life growth –time to double– and a half life decay that gives us the R value.

The original assumption about isotope decay was that as atoms are very widely spaced appart small particles would mainly pass through a sample. And as had been observed with some high energy particles some small percentage would colide with the atoms and be deflected or as observed bounce back towards the source.

The argument effectively went that if a sample of isotope atoms was in a stream of such particles that were time invarient in intensity their probability of being hit by the particles was small but likewise invariant with time.

But importantly that time invariant behaviour of atoms and stream of particles has a time varient result as an isotope atom takes it’s self out of the game by decaying. That is in each time period you would trigger a small percentage of the atoms to decay, leaving less atoms for the next time period which as the probability had not changed would result in the same percentage –not quantity– change in each successive time period. Which gives you an exponential decay curve.

So two time invariant effects combining to give a time varient result, with the assistance of a little uniform physical randomnes in just one of them.

The result of such thinking is very appealing and still is to some. Hence the reason some people still look for an external trigger. They reason, that the fact that none has been found so far, does not mean it does not exist, so does not deter them looking. Because they reason the fact that something has not been discovered does not mean it does not exist on the old “You can not prove a negative” argument.

Oh one fun implication if it did exist is that stream of particles would have not just a constant rate, they would also need to have a small random spacial distribution with the randomness being uniform or ideal, that is of uniform density by time/frequency which is what many call “White Noise” and is found in most other noise sources and Quantum Mechanics requires and both it and Classical physics both give us[1]…

So yes some people will search the physical universe for a classical physics solution that they believe must be true because so much points to it, whilst most others just sit there and calculate with their Quantum physics mathmatical models irrespective of personal belief.

And there is a funny side to this, Quantum Mechanics effectively gave the universe “free will” but… At the cost of strict determanism in the mathmatical models that requires randomness to make it all work.

The down side of this is the “preordained” argument that alowed man and therefore a god to be master of all they surveyed has been replaced, not with a god that plays dice, but just the dice of randomness themselves… The implication of this is of course evolution is true, thus randomness might be the constant from the impossibly small to the impossibly large.

I suspect Alan Turing had come to this sort of conclusion from various of the things he said –including the nature of spots and stripes on creatures– and did. Not least of which was argue that all computers need a true physical random generator.

[1] Oh another fun thought, you are I assume aware of what the Root Mean Square (RMS) is and what it effectively does? Have you thought about the result of successive applications of it to any signal including a white noise “random” signal? If you take the RMS of a sine wave not only do you halve it’s amplitude, importantly you double the frequency of the sinewave the excess energy becomes an infinite series of harmonics of reducing amplitude. Thus you end up with a an infinite frequency series of small amplitude that successively approaches a “white noise distribution”. As all waveforms can be shown to be made of sinewaves the same thing happens to white noise which is what we assume randomness gives us but as the frequencies both constructively and destructively combine the distribution becomes uniform. So from order we get the chaos of randomness irrespective of if we want it or not.

FA December 5, 2020 7:40 AM

Oh another fun thought, you are I assume aware of what the Root Mean Square (RMS) is and what it effectively does?

The RMS value of a waveform is the square root of the mean of the square of the waveform. It’s just a number, not a new waveform.

So I’ll assume you refer to just the square or higher powers of a waveform.

Thus you end up with a an infinite frequency series of small amplitude that successively approaches a “white noise distribution”.

sin(x)^k for increasing integer k converges to a series of narrow impulses of unit ampliture and spaced pi apart. If k is even they are all positive, if k is odd positive and negative pulses alternate.

That waveform will have a discrete (line) spectrum. This is definitely NOT white noise, not even in the limit as k->inf.

Now consider a white noise waveform having some continuous amplitude distribution.

Every point will have some probability of exceeding a given threshold T. For any T, those points that do exceed T define a sequence of events that will have a Poisson distribution, and the time between them will have an exponential distribution.

Taking the square or any higher power doesn’t change anything. The probability of p^k > T is the same as the probablity that |p| > T^(1/k) (assuming even k).

So what are you trying to show here ?

Clive Robinson December 5, 2020 8:16 AM

@ FA,

The RMS value of a waveform is the square root of the mean of the square of the waveform. It’s just a number, not a new waveform.

Have a look at the output of any nonlinear square law circuit such as a bridge rectifier. Nearly everything in life follows a power law one way or another. Engineers spend much of their lives trying to work in the part of the curve that’s near linear.

sin(x)^k for increasing integer k converges to a series of narrow impulses of unit ampliture and spaced pi apart. If k is even they are all positive, if k is odd positive and negative pulses alternate.

Now take the second RMS of that including the issues of “sampling” that creates frequency fold over. Then keep going.

The world is part of a universe that is not only quantitized but most definitely not linear.

SpaceLifeForm December 5, 2020 2:40 PM

@ MarkH, Clive

It really is philosophical.

Can you trust what you think is random is really random?

Can you trust that your coin flip is really random?

I submit, that you cannot.

And, if you really want to think deeply, ask yourself:

What really is ‘Mass’ and ‘Gravity’?

Why does it appear upon ‘Observation’ and ‘Measurement’ that they are related?

Are you sure they are related?

SpaceLifeForm December 5, 2020 4:47 PM

@ Clive, MarkH, Anders, Winter, Lurker, ALL

Catch and Release is in play in this space-time continuum.

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.