Project Development Studio: Project Idea

I would like to focus this semester on random and its connection to quantum physics.

(source:  wikimedia  )

(source: wikimedia )



In ICM last semester we talked about computer generated random numbers and their "pseudo-random" - nature. Dan Shiffman referred to read up more on this topic on This site offers an overview over the difficulties to produce random numbers with an algorithm and a service for random numbers generated by atmospheric noise. Different to the algorithmic "pseudo-random-number-generators" or PRNGs, TRNGs or "true-random-number-generators harvest random-numbers from observing physical phenomena - sometimes even on a subatomic level by observing quantum processes. On the page the authors mention that a comparison between PRNGS and TRNGS can be extended to a discussion on whether the universe is by itself deterministic or not. This philosophical question got me interested: randomness as a statement on determinism. 

Researching more about determinism, chance and probability I discovered the infinite monkey theorem: If a monkey hits a typewriter randomly for an infinite time, it will eventually come up with all works of Shakespeare (there are numerous versions of this metaphor but this is the basic one).

Emile Borel, a French mathematician, illustrated his research in statistics with this theorem and is widely regarded the originator of it. Reading more about him and the theorem I found a quote from one of his books that resonated with my passion for technology:

Quels que soient les progrès des connaissances humaines, il y aura toujours place pour l'ignorance et par suite pour le hasard et la probabilité. (Le hasard, Emile Borel, éd. Librairie Félix Alcan, 1914, p. 12-13)

(Whatever the progress of human knowledge, there will always be room for ignorance, hence for chance and probability.)

This quote fit perfectly into my research of quantum mechanics, a topic that I am interested in since my teens - and since Nov 2017, there is public access to one of three quantum computers worldwide, the IBM Q via an API.


I want to "guess" Emile Borel's quote about chance and probability using chance and probability - with quantum processes on the IBM Q, by observing superpositions to be precise. This process will be visualized with a physical installation or sonification. 


Guessing this quote will take a very long time and will very likely never be fully "guessed": As it consists in its French original of 144 characters (including two special characters), the probability for getting it completely right on the first try by random guessing is 1:18870668547844457769972080826950345531368943638112857227264.

I wrote a quick script for this guessing in Python using quantumrandom, a true random number generator from the University of Australia which is measuring the quantum fluctuations of the vacuum. This is a first step, the IBM quantum computer will be a more direct way to observe quantum processes, especially superpositions (a quantum particle will fall from a superposition, so multiple states at once, into one random state when it is observed/measured).