A Million Random Digits Review / HowTo

A Million Random Digits Review / HowTo

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00:00
this is a million random digits
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published in 1955 it’s a big oversized
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hardcover book with a short introduction
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followed by four hundred pages of digits
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full title of actually a million random
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digits with 100,000 long as deviance so
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after the 400 pages of random digits you
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get 200 pages of 100,000 norm of medians
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whatever that means this is the latest
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video on my series about antique
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calculating devices so why am i doing a
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book review well obviously this isn’t an
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ordinary book like for reading this book
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is meant to be used to do computations
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so I guess it counts as a computing
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device the book was published in 1955 by
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the RAND Corporation which does
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scientific research contracts mostly for
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the US military they did a lot of
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important work in the space program they
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did several large-scale studies of the
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US economy
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they laid some of the groundwork for
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creating the internet and they also
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published a book of random digits now
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let’s just get out of the way I’m going
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to spoil the ending
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eight
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actually let’s look at the beginning to
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each of the rows of digits is numbered
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so that 0 0 0 0 of 0 is the number of
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the first row then we see the first
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random digit is wait 1 I wanted a book
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of a million random digits and they
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start me with 1 the idea of a book of
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random digits is so obviously useless
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but at the same time it must be useful
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for something else nobody ever would
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have made it this is a nicely made book
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too it’s meant to be used so how and why
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would somebody ever use this actually
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the introduction to the second edition
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describes several different ways that
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people could have used this people doing
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surveys who want to interview a random
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subset of the population or even a
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military submarine pilot who has a basic
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route to follow but wants to introduce
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small scale random changes to make it
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harder for anybody to predict their
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course actually there’s a name for that
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it’s called a jinking route actually a
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few weeks ago I watched a World Cup
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penalty kick shootout they say the best
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strategy for the kicker and the
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goalkeeper is total randomness if either
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of them plays according to some
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predictable pattern and the other one
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knows the pattern and that’s a huge
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disadvantage so if I’m the kicker here’s
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what I do for the rest of my career I’m
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just gonna start at the beginning of
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this book and each time I need to take a
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shot I’ll look up the next digit and
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whatever it says I’ll kick the ball in
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the spot according to this chart but why
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do you really need a book like this like
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can I just sort of decide at random for
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myself where I’m gonna kick the ball
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well you could but the fact is people
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aren’t very good at choosing numbers or
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anything else really at random people
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will subconsciously introduce patterns
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into their decisions see real randomness
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is just foreign to people and this book
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is here to help so if I kick my ball by
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the book the other guy has no chance at
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all if predicting my moves I hope he
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doesn’t have the book too though if he’s
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got the book – then he’ll predict the
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moves every time so these numbers really
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random if they’re written down I mean
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does the very act of publishing them in
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a book destroy their randomness
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makes it wonder what the word random is
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even really supposed to mean
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like remember this guy I looked it up he
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has a name his name is roar roar that
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was random but how could a number be
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random
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well the way mathematicians talk about
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this you don’t say an individual numbers
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random when we say these digits are
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random really we mean they were created
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by some randomized procedure so how did
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the wizards that ran to create these
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numbers well it tells you in the
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introduction they had an electric device
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which produce random pulses of
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electricity at a rate of about 10,000
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pulses per second then they pass this
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signal through some circuits to produce
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a stream of thousands of binary numbers
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each second they took those numbers and
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did a bunch of statistical tests on them
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this is all in the book too they showed
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that there doesn’t seem to be any
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patterns one thing they checked is that
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the digits are more or less evenly
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distributed that means each number 0 to
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9 appears equally as often as all the
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other digits in the real world actually
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random phenomena often don’t have this
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kind of even distribution but they have
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a bell-shaped curve like say how tall a
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person is everybody’s height is
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different but it’s not like every height
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is equally likely there are some more
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likely values kind of in the middle and
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some less likely values on the outside
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this is called a normal distribution
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sometimes when you want random numbers
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you want them to be equally distributed
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like those digits but sometimes it’s
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more useful if they are normally
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distributed so the second section of the
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book is devoted to these kinds of
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numbers they took their million random
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digits which are evenly distributed they
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ran them all through another formula to
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convert them into 100,000 random numbers
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which are normally distributed these are
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called normal deviates or Gaussian be
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vietze
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this book seems pretty silly to most
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people actually it has lots of funny
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joke reviews on Amazon I think people
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have a fondness for it because it’s so
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ridiculous and weird but to me as a
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mathematician this book is like an alien
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artifact seeing math is about patterns
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patterns everywhere all around us we
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know that everything in the universe is
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subject to inviolable universal logical
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principles you know laws rhythms and
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patterns that are baked into the fabric
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of space and time this is a profound
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beauty it’s the true nature of the
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universe at its most basic level has a
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structure and a pattern but this thing
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here these numbers were constructed
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specifically to have no pattern no
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rhythm no logical structure at all if
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the universe is like a beautiful song a
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great symphony of reason and pattern
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this book is like an obnoxious kid
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banging on pots and pans it’s like a
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truck driving the wrong way down the
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highway of the universe you know human
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history is full of people who stand
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defiant apart from their culture and say
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no I know the rules here but I refuse to
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obey I see the direction that things are
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going and I’m going another way you all
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do what you want but as for me and my
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house I will serve in another power this
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book here is a defiance a great protest
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against the nature of the universe
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itself a thumbing of the nose at the
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very idea of logic pattern and structure
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in the universe we all know what happens
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to people who push against the tides
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they’re called fools heretics naive
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hopeless but history history calls them
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heroes
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[Music]
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you

A Million Random Digits Review / HowTo