A Million Random Digits Review / HowTo

**A Million Random Digits Review / HowTo**

**Transcript**

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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