Scientific news and articles
Male pipefish decide who survives
Saturn's rings a chaotic clutter
Researchers develop desal on a chip
Final missing piece of insulin lock found
Volcano helped dinosaurs gain upper hand
Bouncing current could speed up charge
Bleaching leaves Lord Howe reef 'on knife edge'
Floor price for booze good as taxes, study
Concerns over varroa mite resistance
Microbes breathe life into oxygen theory
Pre-history rewritten as new human discovered
Dung beetle claims strongest insect title
Scientists unearth Australian tyrannosaur
Splitting cyclone reveals Neptune's nature
Junk food can become addictive: study
Bumblebees have superfast colour vision
Black holes may be 'missing dark matter'
Magnets can manipulate morality: study
Sun helps bats find home in the dark
LHC to begin 'Big Bang' project
Trial of bionic eye within three years
Easter eggs may be good for your heart
Mega-flood triggered European ice age
Finch genome music to researcher's ears
Scientists create truly random numbers
Exploiting a principle that Einstein derided as "spooky action at a distance," physicists claim to have devised a machine that generates genuinely random numbers.

The experiment helps open the way to next-generation ultra-secret communication, according to their paper, appearing in the journal Nature.

Cryptographers use random numbers as a key in which to encode a message, thus thwarting code-busters looking for a pattern that can crack open its contents.

For practical purposes, cryptographers use algorithms known as pseudo-random number generators to provide these coveted digits.

But there are always twinges of uncertainty about using these tools.

One fear is that the program may start to repeat itself at some point, churning out the same sequence of numbers and thus providing a telltale to spotters.

Another is that people who made the program may have kept a copy of it, which of course would be a security weakness.

The experiment solves both dilemmas by providing what its authors call a certifiably random string of numbers, all generated in privacy.
Quantum entanglement

The device hinges on a key principle of the sub-atomic world of quantum mechanics: a weird condition known as entanglement.

Particles of matter or light (photons) have a random state, such as the position of an electron or the polarisation of a photon.

Under entanglement, though, two particles can become so interdependent that even if they are far apart, their states are the same. Thus if you measure the property of one particle, you can also measure the property of its sister.

Quantum entanglement runs counter to our own intuition as well as classical physics, which is why Einstein argued against it.

In the experiment, the scientists held atoms in two separate traps, gave them a jolt of energy to excite them and then released a single photon from each trap at the same time.

The photons intersected at a prism called a beamsplitter, where they entangled, and then zipped onwards on separate paths to detectors.

Every time the detectors signalled entanglement, each atom was then rotated on its axis according to a random schedule, and the light it emitted was measured.

The value from each of the two atoms was then used to create a binary number - the '1' or '0' that is the bedrock of computer code.
'Proof of concept'

Over a month, the researchers carried out more than 3000 consecutive entanglements, generating a string of 42 privately generated binary digits.

Such a speed would of course be useless for cryptographers who need random numbers quickly, but the study is only a "proof of concept" venture to show that it could be done.

"The random bit generation rate is extremely slow," says Professor Chris Monroe of the University of Maryland.

"But we expect speedups by orders of magnitude in coming years as we more efficiently entangle the atoms, perhaps by using atom-like quantum system embedded in a solid-state chip."

New Zealand's GM livestock given reprieve
Nano diamonds to become a doctor's best friend
Ocean saltiness reaching new limits
Volcanic ash unlikely to cool planet
Silk forms 'intimate' brain connection
New drug improves hepatitis C outcome
Microbial life discovered in asphalt lake
Green tea may strengthen your teeth
Head-ramming dino had 'gears' in skull
Clever crows show innovative behaviour
Research casts doubt on brain training
Multiple unknowns cloud volcano's impact
Staying fit helps men 'do it longer'
Copenhagen sets Earth for more warming
Solar spacecraft begins study of our Sun
Mixed messages on gene patenting
Gene study finds multiple species of orca
Dreaming boosts learning and creativity
Scientists measure massive ocean current
Genes influence smoking addiction: study
Nanowires create volts of electricity
Fisheries urged to diversify their 'take'
Chimps confront death in human-like ways
Chile to host world's biggest telescope
Trapping light to improve solar cells
Experts debate use of HPV test
Japan to launch 'space yacht'
Sea ice loss key to Arctic warming, study
Australian lasers to track orbiting junk
Thawing nitrous oxide overlooked: study
'Sound bullets' could blast cancer
Lasers could spark clean nuclear power
Seaweed slows black sea snakes down
Asteroid impacts cause crustal crisis: study
Flu jab link to increased H1N1 risk: study
Intestinal germ helps sushi digestion
Researcher closes in on freezing conundrum
Test identifies smokers at highest risk
New species of human found in 'death trap'
'Planet of love' still hot and active
Stress takes its toll on tiny lizard
Scientists record world's tiniest nudge
Cell signals shed light on breast cancer
Parasites behind seasonal allergies
Study finds maternal deaths falling
Pluto's family set to grow tenfold
Diet cuts Alzheimer's risk: study
Whales get physical when seas get rough
'Tweets' could warn of future epidemics
Quolls force-fed toads in survival fight
Researchers question use of silver dressings
Scientists create truly random numbers
Visit Statistics