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Watch a wall of lava lamps helping keep the internet secure

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Modern technology never looked so retro.

Cloudflare is an internet security company responsible for providing online security for nearly 10 percent of HTTP and HTTPS requests. They needed to find a way to generate random numbers, which their algorithms could in turn use to produce a random key. The problem is that computer-based random number generators are not as random as you would think. Since the results are based on coded algorithms, they do have a pattern.

For this project, the more chaotic and arbitrary the better, and so they came up with the brilliant idea to construct a wall of 100 lava lamps.

They have cameras aimed at the lamps, which measure everything from the position of the bubbles to the changes in ambient light their movement makes. Every minute aspect of these lava lamps plays a part in the generated number. Gizmodo explains the system:

The most simple explanation is that a lava lamp is a great way to generate randomness. Coding just isn’t great at generating random numbers because, at its heart, code requires a system to mimic chaos. The best encryption has a truly random key so it’s more difficult for a bad actor to guess how to break the cipher. Cloudflare videotapes its wall of colorful constantly morphing lava lamps and translates that video information into unique cryptographic keys.

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