The #Wall of #Lava #Lamps That #Protects the #Internet From #Hackers

With hackers hitting everyone from Equifax to HBO, you’d imagine something more advanced than lava lamps is protecting your information—but you’d be wrong.

With high-profile hackers stealing headlines, credit card numbers, and Game of Thrones scripts in the last six months, there’s no doubt been very important meetings called across the world to figure out how to keep hackers at bay.


So, what ingenious, impenetrable systems are keeping the world safe? 

The folks at Cloudflare, which handles encryption for around 10 percent of the internet’s total traffic, have to say “lava lamps” with a straight face.

Well, to be fair, that’s actually 100 lava lamps, a swinging pendulum in London, and a chunk of radioactive material in Singapore. 

It might sound like little more than a slightly more complex version of Mouse Trap, but together this weird assortment of junk keeps Cloudflare’s traffic encrypted through the magical, mathematical concepts of randomness and unpredictability. Also, Linux is involved. 

It’s interesting to see how encryption and chaos theory overlap—the pendulum mentioned in the video is probably similar to a double pendulum, which is a classic example of chaos theory (you probably learned about that in Jurassic Park).

A double pendulum is very sensitive to “initial conditions,” or what position it starts in, to the point that a small fraction in difference in two starting points can yield incredibly different swing patterns. This seeming unpredictability to outside observers makes it a great way to simulate randomness, and therefore create the basis for an extremely difficult encryption.

Still, lava lamps give Cloudflare way more style points.

We like to imagine the Chinese scientists who launched the world’s first quantum encryption satellite covertly including a lava lamp in their next satellite, just for that extra layer of security. Groovy, man.

Leave a Reply