Randomness

Randomness is the lack of pattern or predictability in events. A random sequence of events, symbols or steps has no order and does not follow an intelligible pattern or combination. Individual random events are by definition unpredictable, but in many cases the frequency of different outcomes over a large number of events is predictable. For example, when throwing two dice, the outcome of any particular roll is unpredictable, but a sum of 7 will occur twice as as 4. In this view, randomness is a measure of uncertainty of an outcome, rather than haphazardness, applies to concepts of chance and information entropy; the fields of mathematics and statistics use formal definitions of randomness. In statistics, a random variable is an assignment of a numerical value to each possible outcome of an event space; this association facilitates the calculation of probabilities of the events. Random variables can appear in random sequences. A random process is a sequence of random variables whose outcomes do not follow a deterministic pattern, but follow an evolution described by probability distributions.

These and other constructs are useful in probability theory and the various applications of randomness. Randomness is most used in statistics to signify well-defined statistical properties. Monte Carlo methods, which rely on random input, are important techniques in science, as, for instance, in computational science. By analogy, quasi-Monte Carlo methods use quasirandom number generators. Random selection, when narrowly associated with a simple random sample, is a method of selecting items from a population where the probability of choosing a specific item is the proportion of those items in the population. For example, with a bowl containing just 10 red marbles and 90 blue marbles, a random selection mechanism would choose a red marble with probability 1/10. Note that a random selection mechanism that selected 10 marbles from this bowl would not result in 1 red and 9 blue. In situations where a population consists of items that are distinguishable, a random selection mechanism requires equal probabilities for any item to be chosen.

That is, if the selection process is such that each member of a population, of say research subjects, has the same probability of being chosen we can say the selection process is random. In ancient history, the concepts of chance and randomness were intertwined with that of fate. Many ancient peoples threw dice to determine fate, this evolved into games of chance. Most ancient cultures used various methods of divination to attempt to circumvent randomness and fate; the Chinese of 3000 years ago were the earliest people to formalize odds and chance. The Greek philosophers discussed randomness at length, but only in non-quantitative forms, it was only in the 16th century that Italian mathematicians began to formalize the odds associated with various games of chance. The invention of the calculus had a positive impact on the formal study of randomness. In the 1888 edition of his book The Logic of Chance John Venn wrote a chapter on The conception of randomness that included his view of the randomness of the digits of the number pi by using them to construct a random walk in two dimensions.

The early part of the 20th century saw a rapid growth in the formal analysis of randomness, as various approaches to the mathematical foundations of probability were introduced. In the mid- to late-20th century, ideas of algorithmic information theory introduced new dimensions to the field via the concept of algorithmic randomness. Although randomness had been viewed as an obstacle and a nuisance for many centuries, in the 20th century computer scientists began to realize that the deliberate introduction of randomness into computations can be an effective tool for designing better algorithms. In some cases such randomized algorithms outperform the best deterministic methods. Many scientific fields are concerned with randomness: In the 19th century, scientists used the idea of random motions of molecules in the development of statistical mechanics to explain phenomena in thermodynamics and the properties of gases. According to several standard interpretations of quantum mechanics, microscopic phenomena are objectively random.

That is, in an experiment that controls all causally relevant parameters, some aspects of the outcome still vary randomly. For example, if a single unstable atom is placed in a controlled environment, it cannot be predicted how long it will take for the atom to decay—only the probability of decay in a given time. Thus, quantum mechanics does not specify the outcome of individual experiments but only the probabilities. Hidden variable theories reject the view that nature contains irreducible randomness: such theories posit that in the processes that appear random, properties with a certain statistical distribution are at work behind the scenes, determining the outcome in each case; the modern evolutionary synthesis ascribes the observed diversity of life to random genetic mutations followed by natural selection. The latter retains some random mutations in the gene pool due to the systematically improved chance for survival and reproduction that those mutated genes confer on individuals who possess them.

Several authors claim that evolution and sometimes development require a specific form of randomness, namely the introduction of qualitatively new behaviors. Instead of the choice of one possibility among several pre-given ones, this randomness corresponds to the formation of new possibilities; the characteristics of an organism arise to some extent deterministically and to som

Computer science

Computer science is the study of processes that interact with data and that can be represented as data in the form of programs. It enables the use of algorithms to manipulate and communicate digital information. A computer scientist studies the theory of computation and the practice of designing software systems, its fields can be divided into practical disciplines. Computational complexity theory is abstract, while computer graphics emphasizes real-world applications. Programming language theory considers approaches to the description of computational processes, while computer programming itself involves the use of programming languages and complex systems. Human–computer interaction considers the challenges in making computers useful and accessible; the earliest foundations of what would become computer science predate the invention of the modern digital computer. Machines for calculating fixed numerical tasks such as the abacus have existed since antiquity, aiding in computations such as multiplication and division.

Algorithms for performing computations have existed since antiquity before the development of sophisticated computing equipment. Wilhelm Schickard designed and constructed the first working mechanical calculator in 1623. In 1673, Gottfried Leibniz demonstrated a digital mechanical calculator, called the Stepped Reckoner, he may be considered the first computer scientist and information theorist, among other reasons, documenting the binary number system. In 1820, Thomas de Colmar launched the mechanical calculator industry when he released his simplified arithmometer, the first calculating machine strong enough and reliable enough to be used daily in an office environment. Charles Babbage started the design of the first automatic mechanical calculator, his Difference Engine, in 1822, which gave him the idea of the first programmable mechanical calculator, his Analytical Engine, he started developing this machine in 1834, "in less than two years, he had sketched out many of the salient features of the modern computer".

"A crucial step was the adoption of a punched card system derived from the Jacquard loom" making it infinitely programmable. In 1843, during the translation of a French article on the Analytical Engine, Ada Lovelace wrote, in one of the many notes she included, an algorithm to compute the Bernoulli numbers, considered to be the first computer program. Around 1885, Herman Hollerith invented the tabulator, which used punched cards to process statistical information. In 1937, one hundred years after Babbage's impossible dream, Howard Aiken convinced IBM, making all kinds of punched card equipment and was in the calculator business to develop his giant programmable calculator, the ASCC/Harvard Mark I, based on Babbage's Analytical Engine, which itself used cards and a central computing unit; when the machine was finished, some hailed it as "Babbage's dream come true". During the 1940s, as new and more powerful computing machines were developed, the term computer came to refer to the machines rather than their human predecessors.

As it became clear that computers could be used for more than just mathematical calculations, the field of computer science broadened to study computation in general. In 1945, IBM founded the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University in New York City; the renovated fraternity house on Manhattan's West Side was IBM's first laboratory devoted to pure science. The lab is the forerunner of IBM's Research Division, which today operates research facilities around the world; the close relationship between IBM and the university was instrumental in the emergence of a new scientific discipline, with Columbia offering one of the first academic-credit courses in computer science in 1946. Computer science began to be established as a distinct academic discipline in the 1950s and early 1960s; the world's first computer science degree program, the Cambridge Diploma in Computer Science, began at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory in 1953. The first computer science degree program in the United States was formed at Purdue University in 1962.

Since practical computers became available, many applications of computing have become distinct areas of study in their own rights. Although many believed it was impossible that computers themselves could be a scientific field of study, in the late fifties it became accepted among the greater academic population, it is the now well-known IBM brand that formed part of the computer science revolution during this time. IBM released the IBM 704 and the IBM 709 computers, which were used during the exploration period of such devices. "Still, working with the IBM was frustrating if you had misplaced as much as one letter in one instruction, the program would crash, you would have to start the whole process over again". During the late 1950s, the computer science discipline was much in its developmental stages, such issues were commonplace. Time has seen significant improvements in the effectiveness of computing technology. Modern society has seen a significant shift in the users of computer technology, from usage only by experts and professionals, to a near-ubiquitous user base.

Computers were quite costly, some degree of humanitarian aid was needed for efficient use—in part from professional computer operators. As computer adoption became more widespread and affordable, less human assistance was needed for common usage. Despite its short history as a formal academic discipline, computer science has made a number of fundamental contributions to science and society—in fact, along with electronics, it is