Groovy little lava lamps are helping to provide security on the internet

Sometimes, you just can't beat 1963 technology for 21st-century encryption.

Did you ever own a lava lamp? If you grew up in the 1960s or 1970s, there is probably a 10% chance that you did. Speaking of 10%, the humble psychedelic lava lamp is now securing about 10% of the internet.

Yes, lava lamps are the key to beating hackers. 

A British inventor came up with the lava lamp in 1963, suspending a wax globule in a clear liquid inside a glass container. The light bulb in the base both provides illumination and keeps the blob rising, sinking and morphing through thermodynamics. It's not important really to know how it works. You know that the groovy lamps became an icon of the hippie era.

Today, however, they are helping to encrypt data.

The San Francisco tech firm Cloudflare (which almost sounds like a brand name for a lava lamp) provides digital security for companies such as Uber and OKCupid. Its headquarters features a wall decorated with 100 lava lamps in blue, orange and magenta. There are not just there to set a mood.

A camera points at the wall and records the movement inside the lava lamps. The natural randomness of the "lava" flow provides a hard-to-crack encryption code. 

Learn more in the interesting video from Atlas Obscura below. Did you have a lava lamp — do you have a lava lamp?

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robapel 54 months ago
I don't think the name Cloudflare sounds like a brand of lava lamp at all.

It would be nice if the article and video give a bit more info on how the random image creates security. But since it is random they could just as well just point the camera out the window as well. lol At least the lamps are in a separate room from all of the servers as they generate a lot of heat that you don't want in your computer room.
LucyImHome1951 55 months ago
Cool! and my mother said they didn't have a purpose.
JeffTanner 55 months ago
Yes, I had one, But don't remember what year or years they were. It was a used one that I think my parents bought for me. Or maybe I bought it myself.
MrsPhilHarris 55 months ago
My husband gave me on for Christmas about 5 years ago. I have no idea what happened to it.
Pacificsun 55 months ago
How fascinating. Wish the theory was explained a little more.

Yes I had one (an original). The rebooted ones were never quite the same.
anthony 55 months ago
Fitting they are made in San Francisco.The Mecca of The hippie movement.
robapel anthony 54 months ago
The are not made in SF. The company that uses them is in SF.
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