Alex Martelli aleaxit at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 1 12:16:19 EDT 2001

"David C. Ullrich" <ullrich at math.okstate.edu> wrote in message
news:3b17a2f1.411766 at nntp.sprynet.com...
> Could you give us a hint regarding exactly what work
> of Chaitin's shows we can get "truly random" numbers from
> arithmetic algorithms?

I think his latest book, "Exploring Randomness" published
by Springer-Verlag, is probably 'it'... gotta order it one
of these days (it's been out a month and I yet haven't...
sigh, my sloth's getting worse... to my excuse, the UK
branch of Amazon claims it's not there yet, and Chaitin's
page mentions a Springer-Verlag special offer on all 3
of his books but Springer-Verlag seem to never have heard
of it, and...).

> A physical RNG can have the property that one cannot make
> any prediction about the value of the next bit even given
> _complete_ information about how the numbers are being

"From impossibilia sequitur quodlibet".  *IF* you could
have complete information, *THEN* you could predict all
you want.  Problem is, you CANNOT have complete info due
to that Heisenberg fellow, therefore you cannot predict
(precisely).  From what I know of Chaitin's life work,
it started with just the idea of defining randomness in
terms of minimal amount of information (in bits) you need
for prediction.  If YOUR definition of 'randomness' is
something that needs INFINITE number of bits to predict,
go ahead and have fun, but you're unlikely to get some
constructive results out of it.  Chaitin, Martin-Loef,
and Solovay, do have various definitions that ARE of some
use, and apparently they all turn out to be equivalent
(and "Exploring Randomness" includes, inter alia, proofs
of the equivalence that a layman DOES have a chance to
follow -- I'm told).

A physical system that is macroscopic enough to escape
Heisenbergian conumdrums could also be describable in
a finite number of bits, in terms of enabling somebody
to predict the 'next outcome'.  That was, if I'm not
mistaken, Laplace's take on probability (and not his
only), all the way up to Einstein's in this century --
that it's all about hidden variables, information that
we do not happen to have, rather than information that
intrinsically CANNOT be had.

Measuring randomness in terms of amount of information
seems like it works nicely.  More when I _have_ managed
to get and study "Exploring Randomness", if it's not
too far over my head...!


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