A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates [and other psuedo-random thoughts]

Pages from 'A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates' - RAND
Pages from ‘A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates’ – RAND

‘The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance ‘ – Robert R. Coveyou.

Random number spotters will enjoy ‘A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates’, published by RAND in 1955. The book contains 600 pages of random digits neatly aligned in tables. The tables were designed to be used in mathematical and scientific experiments particularly in the area of cryptography. The book was reissued in 2001 and is available at Amazon, where it has generated some amusing readers reviews:

‘Such a terrific reference work! But with so many terrific random digits, it’s a shame they didn’t sort them, to make it easier to find the one you’re looking for.’

‘The book is a promising reference concept, but the execution is somewhat sloppy….The bulk of each page seems random enough. However at the lower left and lower right of alternate pages, the number is found to increment directly.’

‘For a supposedly serious reference work the omission of an index is a major impediment. I hope this will be corrected in the next edition.’

‘If you like this book, I highly recommend that you read it in the original binary. As with most translations, conversion from binary to decimal frequently causes a loss of information’

More reviews of RAND’s encyclopedia of random digits can be viewed here.

In 2006 Nathan Kennedy wrote to RAND asking if he could freely distribute these million random digits believing that they contained no creative content and therefore should not be subject to copyright restrictions. RAND responded negatively, and perhaps preposterously affirmed that the million random digits were subject to copyright laws! Nathan’s answer was to publish his own ‘A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates’ online.

As all programmers will know, computer generated random numbers are at best pseudo-random as they are generated in a predictable (deterministic) fashion using a mathematical formula. Patterns will eventually show up in large sequences of random numbers.

Random.org offers true random numbers generated from data derived from sampling atmospheric noise. Random that is, if you don’t subscribe to the idea that the Universe is in itself one endless ongoing parallel computation and therefore deterministic in principle.

Leave a Reply